Of Love and a Bunny

Changes come. Keep your dignity. Take the high road. Take it like a man.

—Momma Sed, Puscifer

Change is coming. As previously mentioned, I will soon be moving to a new house. Having lived here in this one the past five years, I have grown kind of attached to my little home in the suburbs, and also the things that dwell within. I thought I was ready to move on, but recent events have hinted that maybe I am not.

Not just yet.

I had big plans for the weekend past. Had it all lined up. A relaxed drawing session on Friday evening and an early night to be bright and fresh for a cluster of recording and editing sessions scattered over Saturday, followed by a relaxed Sunday to pick up on some long-needed writing. I am incredibly close to completing this current project and I needed a weekend like this to get it across the finish line. It was to be a fruitful effort. It slips by me sometimes, the fact that I have absolutely no control over life. I will sure as hell fight for that control, but there will be battles that I can never win.

Friday morning, I awoke to the sounds of my housemate Tess talking to Dante the rabbit. This is by no means unusual. On weekdays I leave my bedroom door ajar so that I might be woken by her gentle coos and giggles before my alarm has the chance to go off. Dante’s daily routine is a reliable catalyst for these affections and are usually prompted by his dashing underfoot. This is an effort on his part to ensure his presence is known before standing to attention by the fridge with his whiskers twitching in the morning sunbeam. This irresistible move has both humans well-trained and will always result in either a pat on his face and head or a strawberry-top from the fridge.

Tess rescued Dante through adoption about a year before we moved in together—back when we were together in 2015—and before we found this flat. Dante had barely survived his previous life. Those first few months, and regrettably his previous owners too, had been most unkind. I do not know the full circumstances of that life, but when Tess brought him home, his grayish-brown fur was bleached orange, and he had lost the use of his right eye. He was skittish, timid, and small.

We had attempted to pair him with Archie, a much older, black-faced Angora whose moods ranged from slightly irritable to downright aggressive. After one or two failed attempts that resulted in fur flying in all directions, Archie finally accepted little Dante only after a common enemy was introduced to the family—a common housecat. Of course, we never left the rabbits and cat in a room unattended, but Archie did not know that and while it lasted, even if it was only begrudgingly, Dante had a companion.

When the cat moved on, however, so too did Archie’s tolerance for others. His dominant nature kicked in and the tooth-and-claw fur hurricanes returned. Archie was out for blood. The final straw for us was when he got what he wanted and tore Dante a new hole, which left a trail of red across the floorboards. We had to separate them and so Archie was passed on. Dante was safe again, but it still took many months before he would truly accept us as his humans.

Before Archie left, my relationship with Tess was going south, but we remained together in the same house and made the painful transition to becoming housemates. I would not recommend this. It was not a swift or easy process—it took years for a sense of equilibrium to return. But here we are, still housemates (at the time of writing) and more importantly, still friends. Dante has been in our lives for the last five-or-so years and in a way, he has kept us tethered—and perhaps even anchored through the darkest of storms.

During his life with us, Dante has suffered the occasional indignity of a trip to the vet for check-ups, shots and otherwise. He is a true survivor, still kicking and thumping at the respectable age of seven years old. It has only been the last two years that I have grown accustomed to waking to Tess talking to Dante—it is a truly warm and life-affirming start to the day. The Friday morning past, however, her tone was off. Full of concern, she asked him if he was okay. A moment later, she was at my bedroom door.

                ‘What’s wrong?’ I said.

                ‘He’s being very still and doesn’t want his food.’

I rose to investigate. As a free-range rabbit, Dante has full command of the living room and has a variety of favourite places to rest. Under the couch next to his food, under the dining room table—ready to ambush us for snacks, under the coffee table by our feet in the colder months. He was not in any one of these places. Instead, he sat hunched uncomfortably in a corner—his back compressed in the way rabbits do when their insides are acting up. It could be indigestion. Perhaps he had eaten something too rich, but then, perhaps it was something worse. Either way, it was a matter of concern and we took stock of when we last saw him eat, what currently remained in his food bowl, and how many greens laid for him the night before that he had not touched at all.

The day was cancelled. We took him to ER.

With news of my housemate moving out, I knew I would have to let Dante go—she owns him after all. Late last year we almost lost him to a common—but no less horrible for its commonness—condition called gut stasis. That happened at around midnight and we were lucky to get him to ER in time, where they hooked him up to an IV and monitored him closely in the hope that it would jumpstart his insides once more.

There was apprehension, many tears, and no sleep.

I cannot begin to describe the relief we both felt when the vet called and told us he was eating again—a skill he used to nibble his way through the IV line too! Having him home again was like a weight being lifted and even he seemed as if his youth had been restored—he was like a new bunny apart from his blind eye that had changed to a ghoulish white like Marilyn Manson. Aside from that, his zest for life (and strawberry tops) had been restored.

Since then, it has felt like we have been living on borrowed time. I saw it as a wake-up call in many ways. Dante is an older rabbit now and has certainly reached his life expectancy. So, when I saw the early warning signals of illness that we had missed last year, we took him straight to hospital.

They kept him in for two nights this time. After the first night he had shown signs of improvement, but they wanted to do more tests, and I assume, for him to stabilise somewhat.

The wait was agonising.

I spend a lot of time in this house by myself. Tess has her own life, which gives me plenty of space to work on my projects. Well, I say alone, I have Dante to keep me company. When I break for a coffee or snack, without fail, he’s there at the fridge with his ears to attention in the hope that I’ll provide the service of retrieving something for him. When I’m sitting to read or watching a movie, I hear the soothing sound of him grazing away or digging at the hay in his litter tray. When the world is silent and still, he makes tiny grunt squeaks as he struggles to clean himself in those hard-to-reach places.

The second night, Tess left me at home by myself. I could not work; I could not sleep. The house was silent. I saw furry grey-brown ghosts at the corner of my vision as conditioned impulses in my brain told me that there should be a little furry thing under the stair or by the kitchen table. On more than one occasion, I caught myself starting to talk to him before remembering he was not here with me.

. . .

We got him home on Sunday, along with a medicine regimen for the following two days, and he was highly stressed. When I got him out of his box, he just sat and shivered so we let him rest. He had never been away from home for that long. When he had rested, however, the first thing he did was eat.

He ate and he ate.

The next two days were a routine of administering medicine, ensuring he was continuing to eat, and checking that he was getting enough liquids. We got through the regimen, and I’m pleased to tell you that he’s back to health once more. He eats, poops, and does all the things a functioning bunny should do, but we’re not in the clear just yet. Tests for kidney issues were inconclusive. Another visit in two weeks for more tests to confirm.

Dante is home now, and it is good, but we cannot continue to jumpstart the little guy every time his battery gets low. There comes a point where the law of diminishing returns kicks in—and if your loved one spends more time on pain medication than not, I am sorry to say that it is better for them to just let them go.

I will be okay. I’ve done this before. It’s going to suck when it happens—whether he’s here with me or at Tess’s new home–and it will hurt. I will cry and question why, cursing the gods with all my fury.

He’s had a good life. He is having a good life. When his time comes, it will be the right time.

Momma said like the rain (This, too, shall pass). Like a kidney stone (This, too, shall pass). It’s just a broken heart, son. This pain will pass away.

—Momma Sed, Puscifer

2021 vision

I guess this is just a short blog update.

The new year has been around for long enough that all your resolutions will have had the chance to fall by the wayside, and now you are probably back to your same old garbage self once more. This is how it works, right? The holiday period gets you all reflective about where you’ve been and what you’re doing, you fill yourself with cake and optimism, then you ride this sugar-fueled wave of delusion until the New Year’s Eve countdown but as soon as you kiss a stranger, all of those hopes and dreams evaporate along with your dignity and your best laid plans of how to get home without walking through four suburbs at 4am.

Surprisingly, my resolutions are sticking around this time. Is this a sign of maturity on my part or simply a side-effect of pandemic-induced paranoia keeping me away from the unpredictable chaos of other people? Let me get back to you on that one because I have no idea.

I have NOT begun work on the second draft of my novel just yet. I promised a few people a read of the finished first draft, but when I completed it last year, all I saw from chapter to chapter were issues and inconsistencies. And that is why we re-draft, people. If you’re waiting to read it, don’t worry, you will get it soon—just as soon as I’m done with my red pen.

I have not been writing, but I have been keeping relatively busy as I chip away at a couple of other projects—one of those being more episodes for Why Are You Here? I’ve had the pleasure of editing this podcast since the beginning of its second season. I’m quite proud of the fact that I assist in bringing this to life, so do check it out if you like character-driven comedy.

There’s also something bubbling away in the background, which I’m super excited to finally deliver this year (hopefully the end of February). I’ve left a few clues on my Instagram as to what that is, but they are only a tiny suggestion of what’s to come.

On a personal note, my aim for this year is to strike a balance between working on commissioned projects and also my own so that this output will support me financially. Why am I sharing this—I have no idea either, but please do let me know if there’s anything you might like to see as part of a Patreon or something similar if I choose to go down that path.

I’m also going to have to move to a new house at some point, perhaps sooner rather than later, which may make things tricky for a little while. Ah well, we take these challenges as they come.

Stick around and stay tuned. I’ve got more podcasts, writing and other fun things to see and hear just around the corner and I think it’s going to be a very good year.

First draft complete!

The Aramis Gothboi project: writing a children’s book

progress journal
DRAFT: 01 | word count: 48,938

Journal entry 31:

Monday 16 November 2020

Not a huge volume of work achieved over the weekend, but certainly a substantive amount. Less that 8,000 words to go and I’ve found myself a plot hole that I’m going to have to fix somehow. It’s simply a matter of moving characters around so they’re in the right place at the right time, but it feels good to see it and know that I can fix it.

Speaking of plot holes, I just know that this draft is littered with them. Over the past two weeks I’ve done what I could to resolve such things, but there were a few I let go to fix later. The second act has been improved and makes a lot more sense now, but I still see moments where characters simply say the things I need them to say to push on to the next bit. All of this will need fixing. Also, I noted that some characters get a little too meta—which I’m sure I only wrote that way to amuse myself at the time. It will be interesting to see what I do with these bits. I like comedy for the sake of comedy but if it detracts from the reader experience, it’s got to go.

Back to progress, I’ve got one more chapter to flesh out before I tackle that new chapter. Who knows, I might get this done before the week is out. If I do, I’ll use the rest of the month for clean-up and a final pass on each chapter before it goes in the drawer for a bit. Well, we’ll see how we go. I don’t want to push for too much if I don’t have the time to do it.

Monday 23 November 2020

It looks like I’m just about done. Still short of my 50K by a little over 1,000 words but all of the story is now there on the page. Over the weekend I managed to fill all the holes, completed that additional chapter, and added two more as well.

I could sit here and chip away on those last few words to make 50K (there’s always work to be done), but I think it’s safe for me to declare it now:

I have completed the first draft!

I am very much looking forward to putting this manuscript in the drawer for a few weeks and commencing the second draft in the new year.

In the meantime, I suppose I should try to live a little. You should too.

Until next year, peeps. Thanks for following the journey so far. 2021 is going to be a big one.

Stay safe.

On track for completion (the second week of NaNoWriMo)

The Aramis Gothboi project: writing a children’s book

progress journal
DRAFT: 01 | word count: 40,894

Journal entry 30:

Monday 9 November 2020

I’m feeling pretty down from the constant need to progress faster than anticipated. Starting this, I planned to get at least 500 words a day and I have achieved that so far, but I feel like I should be doing more.

To give myself a bit of a roadmap I wrote a list of all the chapters that need additional content and put an average of +1,000 words to be added to each one, but every time I attacked one, I was finding it difficult to add that many words and not mess with what was already written.

So, I revised my plan to tackle the problem chapters in smaller chunks. Instead of looking at them as lacking in wordcount, I look at what needs fixing in terms of content. Once I fix the issue, I tally up the count and move on to the next problem. If, when I’ve fixed all those little problem areas, I am still below the desired wordcount—I will just look for more problem areas and repeat the process until I get there.

I know that writing, like any craft, is working with a set of tools and guidelines to achieve a creative outcome but I think doing it—especially in the first draft—to hit arbitrary markers like having so many words per chapter can be damaging to the process.

Yes, you must write the words. No one else will do it for you. There are expectations for the form that come down to lengths for chapters and novels in their entirety and I get that, but if the chapter has been pushed as far as it can go and you haven’t hit that expected number of words—for me at least—it’s better that I leave it and move on to keep the ball rolling.

Anyway, I’m a third of the way to my goal. One quarter of the way through the allotted time to complete it, so whatever I’m doing, I must be doing it right.

Tuesday 10 November 2020

I did not get a whole lot written today but I did have a little breakthrough on the story. I had been working with rough structural notes for where to add further plot points to fill in a few holes and after today’s effort have figured out that there is room for a whole new chapter! Yay! That will certainly bump up the wordcount.

Friday 13 November 2020

It has been a slow week for progress. I am still on track with my 500-word average, but only because I built it up previously.

Seriously, the last four days have consisted of half-hour sessions in which I barely get 200 words down. I have not put time aside to try and do more, but I have not had the energy either. I’ve been putting off doing that new chapter as I know what will happen if I reach my wordcount before I finish plugging up these holes—they will be left gaping and that will simply mean more work for me when I attack the second draft.

Righto, back into it. Will let you know how I go.

Another hour, another 250 words. So. Slow! That said, I made some huge improvements on what was previously written. I was seriously stuck on the opening paragraph—it was actual garbage. It was sort of a scene, I guess. But it felt a hell of a lot more like a laundry list of things in a room, so I spent some time making it flow. Once I did, the additional stuff came easy. Sometimes you just got to keep chipping away until you find what you were looking for.

The good news is there is only one more hole to fill before I jump on board with that new chapter. With my wordcount sitting at less than 10K to go, I am now feeling enthusiastic and confident about progress. Let’s hope it’s a fruitful weekend.