Trying Times

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By now, everyone in my house is getting pretty squirrelly.

We’re losing ourselves in time, for a start – none of us can remember, offhand, what day it is, and mealtimes are getting to be notional, because we aren’t on any kind of schedule, so we find ourselves eating lunch anywhere between 11 am and 3 o’clock.

I haven’t seen a new face in about two weeks, which feels kind of odd.

Laundry isn’t piling up much, on account of no one getting out of their jammies until after lunch, if at all.

We aren’t cooking exotic meals, but that is because for the last ten days, all three adults have had a recurring stomach flu, so we’ve been sticking to mac and cheese, and soup and things like that.

But there’s been another shift, too.

Art is starting to occur. Evan and his mom painted owl pictures yesterday, and I have to say that Evan’s is darned good.

I’ve started writing again – I was in a slump, and now I’ve managed to force myself out of it, although Book Three is still having plot problems, so I’m working on other things and hoping for inspiration to strike.

I miss being able to go out for lunch. Or go out anywhere, although I fully intend to start walking in the park again, probably very early in the morning in the hope that there will be no one else around.

And we’ve all woken up to what really matters in life.

Art matters.

Generosity matters.

People matter.

Let’s try not to forget that, okay?

Flash Fiction Friday!

Ogilvie had never bothered much about his new neighbours.

Indeed, he rarely saw them, and even then, only as shadowy glimpses in the early dawn, wafting between the pine trees at the end of the back garden, or slipping down the drive at sunset.

It was with a certain amount of shock, therefore, when the doorbell rang, and he opened it to see a slender, very beautiful girl, nearly six feet tall and with a halo of golden hair and very obviously pointed ears.

An elf.

Every vampire’s mortal enemy.

JordanCon and stuff.

So, obviously, my fave sff convention is cancelled.

It’s sad. Of course it is.

On the other hand, I’ve got time to write, I guess. Or something.

It’s hard, though, as someone interested in history, to remain dispassionate and calm when I see people behaving exactly as those in earlier times did in these situations.

Hoarding and xenophobia are the least of it.

It’s the corkbrained theories and insane “cures” – you would think we would know by now.

It’s the immediate regression to “whatever idiotic thing that sounds confusing enough to work” as the answer.

It’s really depressing, because even in the 1600s’ people were aware that quarantines are the most efficacious response, both for limiting the spread AND protecting those who are still untouched.*

And the assumption that because so far, most of the deaths have been for old people or those with underlying conditions, the rest of us are somehow protected is nuts.

Viruses mutate.

If they can’t find an easy host one way, they change the kind of host they need.

If there aren’t any weaker hosts to latch onto, they will alter to better invade something stronger.

And those “underlying conditions”?

How do you know you haven’t got one? Sometimes these things are not apparent. Sometimes you feel just great at 20, and are laid low with immuno-deficiencies at 25.

Those things might have been there all the time, but just not have manifested in some way before.

Maybe it’s not you, though.

Maybe it’s your boyfriend. Or your BFF from school. Or your mom’s BFF who has been like an auntie/big sister to you all your life.

You might, by your arrogance, kill them.

You might, by your arrogance, kill yourself.

It’s time we stopped relying on “common sense” and listened to the medical and scientific professionals, and stay home, wash our hands, and shut the eff up about what we “think” is the cure.

 

  • About the 1600s? The village of Eyam in the UK self-quarantined back then. Read a travel piece on that HERE

UnFlash Fiction!

Casting in Stone is on sale this week so here’s a little teaser:

 

Chapter One

The silence was vast, broken only by the sporadic sobbing breaths of the woman crouched over that little, twisted body.

I watched the villagers with interest. As neighbours, they were usually a dull lot, but their reactions to this tragedy needed comprehension. The corpse was not pretty, and they were doing their level best not to look too closely. One of the women was kneeling beside the child’s mother, trying to offer comfort.

Her heart wasn’t in it, though. Even from a distance, her tense shoulders and shadowed eyes shouted soundlessly what every one of them was thinking.

“Thank the Goddess, it wasn’t one of mine!”

I understood that. You couldn’t blame them, it might easily have been one of theirs, after all. It already had been and likely would be again, if someone didn’t do something soon.

They were grateful when Eardith arrived, brisk and business-like, but with that rough sympathy they understood. She was strong, opinionated, stern and forthright, all qualities that would have given her nothing but trouble in a larger, more sophisticated place. People in those places are accustomed to having their priests excuse their little transgressions quietly. Eardith’s advice and solace tended to come with a bracing dose of sarcasm and common sense.

I had shared her cottage peaceably for nearly three years. She didn’t pry, she didn’t gossip, and, luckily for me, she never refused to assist anyone in need.

She looked at me over the mother’s bowed head, and I just nodded. Yes, it was pretty much the same as the other ones. No, I had no idea how to prevent it.

Lord Owain and his forester Joss came around the side of the village’s only inn, looking grim. Owain went straight to the women by the little corpse, resting a hand on the mother’s shoulder in helpless sympathy.

“Something,” said Eardith, “will have to be done.”

Well, that was obvious. It was the third such incident in less than a seven-day. There was a fresh grave already for Briega’s next-to-youngest, and Gair’s daughter was lying ripped and nigh-on bloodless, barely clinging to life. Folk murmured that she was a lucky one, but I wasn’t so sure. If she lived, which seemed unlikely, it would be with a scarred face and a useless leg along with the memory of a savage and horrific attack.

Joss had stopped by Eardith, whispering something swift in her ear. Her reaction was neither helpful nor promising: she merely looked, if it were possible, more shuttered and bleak than ever.

Owain, having nothing he could do for the grieving, began to organize the removal of the body, and issuing orders for caution, patrolling, not letting the youngsters out on their own, all of which had been said from the start. What could you do? A toddler waking in the night and creeping out to use the latrines wasn’t something you could prevent, not really.

Gradually, the crowd dwindled, the women rallying around the bereft parents and bearing them off to the inn, a few of the men coming back with a hurdle to carry the little scrap of dead humanity off to the shrine. In the end, it was only Joss, Owain and Eardith left.

And me. They were all looking at me.

I was, for all intents and purposes, the only armed and mildly dangerous person here, and I filled no identifiable village role. I was easily the most expendable person they knew.

“Wolf scat, up towards the ridge,” Joss said. “Like the others. But there are three, not two, this time.”

Wolves don’t do this, I thought. Wolves don’t walk into a village and wait patiently, night after night, for human prey. But Joss was a woodsman, through and through. He knew as well as I did we were not dealing with ordinary wolves.

Hungry ones might, I supposed, go after a child out alone. But it had been a mild enough winter and an early, pleasant spring. The hills were teeming with game. We had untouched sheep in the pens and unmolested hens in the coops, if it came to that. And the children had not been eaten, merely savaged and left.

A rabid wolf might go after a child. One rabid wolf, maybe, but rabid wolves do not act in groups, and a rabid animal is not usually given to patience or patterns. This was becoming all too predictable.

“Lady Caoimhe?” This was Lord Owain, and I didn’t need for him to spell it out.

“Right.”

I knew what they wanted. There was no good reason I knew of for me not to give it to them.

“Joss, you’ll go with her.” Owain wasn’t very good at giving orders, they always came with the faintest of questioning tones trailing in at the end, but Joss was used to this and just shrugged.

Eardith was already moving off, down towards the path leading to the shrine. I caught Joss’s eye, said “A half-glass, and we can meet at the crossroads,” and trotted after her, catching up as the path led off into the trees.

I didn’t speak. Eardith, if she wanted to tell me anything, would do so in her own time, and I was never one for asking questions, anyway. Instead, I listed in my head the things I needed: hunting spears, my long knives, something to eat in case we were out past midday…

What I liked about Joss mainly was his silence. Occasionally we hunted together, or in high summer, took a little boat out onto the lake and fished. Beyond noting some form of imminent weather change or remarking on tracking potential, we rarely spoke, and that suited me. What happened in the village, the endless litany of who was angry or in love with whom, or who was a lazy sod or a lucky one – I couldn’t see what any of it had to do with me or why I should care. I just lived here, on a probably temporary and barely tolerated scrap of allowance that Eardith’s authority had allotted me.

When I got to the crossroads, where the cart track threading north through Rhwyn met the road west to Davgenny, he was squatting by the evidence the wolves had left behind, but he rose soundlessly and headed to the little trail that veered back into the hills, halting only to wordlessly point out the signs that they had passed here as well.

It looked almost as if the wolves had stopped to have a conference. There were three depressions that spoke of animals sitting for some time, prone and indolent in last year’s dead grass. There were paw-prints that circled, as if at least one of them had paced restlessly, bored by some vulpine debate.

I squinted up into the mountains beyond Rhwyn Vale, where mist still clung to the trees.

There was an overgrown and unused twisty little pass out of Camrhys somewhere above us, theoretically a concern for Lord Owain, but far too small and too treacherous to accommodate more than a really courageous mountain goat or a desperate fugitive with nothing to lose. Owain scarcely heeded it. Certainly there was no organized effort at patrols: he hadn’t the manpower.

If he’d sometimes hinted that my attention there might be welcome if I cared to put the effort in, Eardith had rather discouraged me from venturing into the mountains too much. The pass was of no use to anyone, she said, and a solitary traveller could easily come to grief out there.

The wolves – if wolves they were – disagreed. The signs pointed resolutely eastward and upward out of the valley.

Buy it here

 

What comes after…

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Right now, things are….weird.

Lots of stuff are being shut down here: theatres, churches, schools. People are being laid off/forcibly placed on unpaid leave, or self-isolating.

We’re warned to stay away from crowded places, like grocery stores and shopping malls. It’s good advice (but a lot of people are excepting themselves and rushing out to stock up, which kind of defeats the purpose).

It’s what we need to do. It’s what we have to do to stop this all spreading.

Okay. I support this.

But governments need to do more, because otherwise, the aftermath will be a lot worse. And they need to do it NOW, not later, because every day, things get a little worse.

ONE: if tons of people are not working, a lot of people will not be getting paid.

And a lot of mortgages will not get paid. In turn., a lot of houses will get repossessed, and the housing market will tank.

Real estate agents ought to be lobbying the government and banks to put mortgages on “PAUSE” (no payments, no interest charged) until the country is functioning normally again. They should be screaming loud and long for this, because otherwise, they may not recover as a industry. The more houses on the market – the lower the prices will be. The lower the house prices go, the lower the lower their commissions. Many of them will not survive that crash.

Municipalities should also be pushing hard for this, because the more people default on their mortgages, the more empty houses there will be, which means a lot less in property taxes collected.

And that’s just housing.

What about things like RVs and other “toys”? The first thing anyone is likely to do when money gets tight is get rid of campers, scooters, ATVs, etc.

Those businesses will start to fail, because the market in good used ones on Craig’sList or what have you is going to be huge, as people try desperately to hang on to their house, or to put food on the table.

Interior decorating will go down the tubes, because even those who aren’t at the edges will be putting off that remodel, or new couch, for a year or two, unless there’s a big sale, which won’t do much for the retailer.

Airlines, hotels, restaurant chains – all those sectors should be pushing for these things, for their own protection.

And shareholders – they should be intelligent enough to realize that taking a smaller hit today will save them trillions later on. Less money this year beats no money ever again.

TWO: The stock market is already tanking, which means a lot of people who expected to retire soon won’t be able to – that’s a lot of people that will need to stay in an already stressed job market. And that will also put a lot of strain on social services, because there will be more people on EI. More people on welfare. More people using Food Banks. More people needing mental health services.

Even in the short term, this could put us into economic free fall, and destroy millions of lives.

THREE: if I were a wealthy capitalist, and even if I was sure that the downturn wouldn’t affect me much, I would be pushing hard for the bank pause, and for a huge injection of money into alleviating the immediate-term economic stresses, because the longer-term repercussions could be disastrous on a personal level.

Every ruling elite believes themselves immune. Every. Single. One.

I’m pretty sure the French aristocracy went on thinking nothing could happen to them right up to the day that King Louis got his head chopped off.

I’m also pretty sure that the boyars and the tsarists believed they were still in control on March 14th, 1917. On March 15th, it was too late to change course.

Hell, even on the heels of the Peasants’ Revolt in Britain in 1381, the feudal system wound up altering radically, and changed the economic situation prevalent before the bubonic plague destroyed the crushing, tied-to-the-land serfdom that most people  lived under.

When people get to that point, there is no turning back. Right wing or left, the mob mentality will rule, and a LOT of people will die. If you are seriously wealthy, you should not count on that money to save you, because history proves, over and over, that it simply does not.

 

It would be more than smart for the government to head off this crisis at the pass, and take care of us NOW.

It would be more than smart for big corporations to pick up the slack and support these measures, as well as implementing their own alleviating solutions, and take care of their workforce NOW.

It would be survival versus extinction.

It should, in fact, be a no-brainer.

 

I’m not holding my breath.

 

 

**Edited. I usually proofread the hell out of stuff before I post…blame it on the virus.

 

Flash Fiction Friday!

It all seems very familiar, as if he had been here before.

The broken window at the back of the house. The body among the tangled bedclothes. The spatter of blood against the whiteness of the walls.

He keeps seeing this, every time he breaks into a house.

As a serial killer, it’s very upsetting.

As a cop, he’s almost amused.

If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

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My “settler/colonizer” roots go deep in this country. Some of my family has been here since the late 17th century, part of those first boatloads of land-tied serfs brought to “New France”.

I need to say that up front: I am a product of colonization. It’s not something I need to be ashamed of (how could I be? I had no say in the matter) but neither is it something I can point to with “pride”. It is just a fact.

Some of my forebears were directly involved in the subjugation and genocide of the First Nations and Metis people they encountered.

Like my sentiments above, this is not up for discussion: it simply is another fact. It is not something I need to feel “guilty” about, but here there is a burden: I am responsible for this, in the sense that I have a duty to make reparations, and to go forward doing better than those who came before me.

That’s not onerous. That’s not some kind of cross to bear. It, too, is simply a fact, and “duty” should not be a dirty word. If I am a decent human, I take this on, voluntarily and without resentment, *because* it is not born of guilt.

But here’s the real internal nut that all of us with similar pasts must confront and crack open:

The “revelations” about what had been done/was continuing throughout my lifetime/is happening now – the residential schools, the indifference/blatant racism of law enforcement, the pretense of “listening” to First Nations voices while blithely ignoring the content of their words and actions to pursue some hazily defined “economic good” — these things should not be news to anyone.

Because we did know.

We did.

Our parents knew.

They voted for it.

In the neighbourhood that I grew up in, we were strongly discouraged from playing the cowboys part of “Cowboys and Indians” (we did play the “Indians” part. None of us wanted to be cowboys.) — because our parents knew.

They voted for it.

And we, even as children, understood it instinctively. We could see even through the myths from Hollywood, how a way of life was being destroyed, and how the myth was being constructed. We might not have had the words to describe this…but we knew it for what it was.

We knew.

I cannot be held guilty of atrocities that occurred under governments that adults elected while I was still below the age of consent.

But all of us must face these facts: we, as a group, chose our own self-interest over basic humanity towards others, we perpetuated/continue to perpetuate these acts and attitudes, and it is our duty to end this.

If not us, then who?

If not now, then when?
Morgan Smith acknowledges that she lives on land belonging to
Métis/Tsuu T’ina Plains Cree
Treaty 6, 1876