Goldfish Are Assholes

See, it’s not enough that goldfish swim in circles all day in an effort to mesmerize your innocent children then inexplicably die while they watch. No, that would be bad enough. I can trump that with a goldfish who decided to live.

My autistic daughter got an aquarium for her birthday because she loves checking out all the fish whenever we go to the store. She could stand for hours and look at these things, so we thought, “Hey! I know! She’ll love an aquarium of her own!” (IMPORTANT NOTE: the fact that she’s autistic has absolutely nothing to do with goldfish being assholes, and it really has no bearing on this story…it was really just to make you feel really horrible about what our goldfish did to us. Keep reading.)

We set up the aquarium and waited the appropriate amount of time before purchasing fish, giving the water a chance to decrudify before introducing living creatures into it. Then it was time to head to the store. After steering her well away from the $30 fish (Yes, there are fish that cost $30 at the pet store. If I ever pay that much money for a fish, I’d better be eating it paired with a 100-year-old wine, and Hugh Jackman had better be feeding it to me naked.), we found the moderately priced goldfish. I didn’t want to look like a cheapskate and go for the 38-cent fish, since I could feel people staring at me. I just knew they were judging me for being really, really cheap and buying my poor kid the fish equivalent of two-buck chuck. I sprung for three of the dollar fish, and we were outta there.

One of those cheap little suckers has turned on me, though. One of our orange fish has turned mostly black, starting with its fins and tail and now creeping up its body. It’s really a cool-looking mottled color, like a calico cat, but therein lies the problem: my kids have decided I let the fish die of neglect and replaced it with a different fish. Not only that, it really looks like I didn’t even bother trying to get a similar breed of fish, let alone buy an exact replica.

I tried looking up this phenomenon on the internet just to prove my innocence, but there is surprisingly little in the way of scholarly veterinary journal articles on illnesses affecting cheap goldfish. I’m starting to wish I had actually flushed the little crap head down the toilet since I’m being accused of killing him anyway. As it stands, I’m keeping a running tab of goldfish expenditures so I can either take it off my taxes or make sure I don’t reach the threshold where icthysacide becomes a felony.

The South: Full of People Since 1665

In my real life day job, I actually go to work sober. And by that I mean I’m sober when I get there. Luckily, I’m a full-time author and editor, so there’s nobody to answer to if I decide to have a few margaritas at lunch (hell, the martini lunch is practically a publishing industry cliche, only they did it with other people around and they stopped after the first couple).

But damn if my job isn’t driving me to drink.

The first OSHA-related drinking problem I developed was when I was writing one of my novels (shamelessly plugged HERE, you should totally buy it if you think Catcher in the Rye was stupid). I figured out I just couldn’t nail the main character’s voice without a few glasses of merlot. Shortly after finishing the book, I discovered that I really like merlot, so my next several books just kept that theme going.

But this time, I’m completely innocent of my latest drinking problem. People, I swear it’s your fault.

I edit and review books. People like to write books. People like to write books about the South. People who write books about the South often have NEVER BEEN THERE. And it’s destroying my liver because I can’t do this without drinking.

Let’s clear up something: I live in the South. I DO NOT HAVE AN ACCENT. I do not have a black housekeeper. I do not have a “charge card” at the local family-owned department store. I do shop at a family-owned grocery store, but the owner IS FROM INDIA. Note, not Indiana the state. India the country.

But I’ll be damned if every single newly published book I read that is set in the South, regardless of time period (including the future), doesn’t portray every single character from Mayberry.

Yes, we have a sheriff and many, many deputies. They all have college degrees, mostly in criminal justice.

Yes, it it possible to walk into a store, bank, or other place of business and NOT KNOW ANYONE. Please stop depicting scenes in which everybody knows everybody else the second they walk into the store, or they see someone stopped at a stop light and automatically know who that is.

Yes, I’m certain you can get your hair done in one of the three salons in our mall (yes, we have a mall) and STILL NOT KNOW ANYONE WITH HER HEAD UNDER ONE OF THE DRYERS.Please stop writing THIS scene in particular, because it’s just stupid.

Yes, we still have a main street running through town with lovely locally-owned businesses on either side. But wedged in between those businesses is a freakin’ Merill Lynch, a Starbucks, and a Mellow Mushroom pizza.

This is a real town, filled with real people, and real up-to-date amenities. Have I made myself clear?

I live in a town in the Deep South, and our town’s population hovers just over 18,000 people. We do not haul water from ANYWHERE. We do not have black housekeepers because they’re all a little busy running the school system or operating on their patients. We have an oddly inordinate number of Baptist churches, but guess what? We’ve got a lot of atheists, too. And while our churches do have church picnics from time to time, guess who else has a picnic? THE MOSQUE. They’ve got incredible egg salad at their annual fundraiser.

Authors, STOP it. Stop writing about the South as some throwback to Harper Lee’s day. VISIT, if that’s what it will take. Go to Atlanta and see it for yourself, if you can handle the traffic. Just stop trying to recreate The Help every time you sit down to write, because sadly, moonshine stills are also a thing of a bygone era (except in a couple of places, according to rumors) and I don’t have enough alcohol on hand to read your ridiculous depictions of my hometown.


You’d Think They’d Want to Know If I’m Pregnant Before They Kill The Guy

Okay, so that title is actual words that I accidentally spoke out loud at a completely inappropriate time. In the gas station. Really, really out loud. Here’s what happened:

I made this “without thinking” kind of decision way back in college. When most people do something reckless in college without thinking it through all the way, somebody becomes a baby mamma. Luckily, I’m such a nerd that when I did something in college without thinking, it was donating blood on the blood mobile. And the afterthought was to say, “Sure, go ahead, register me on the bone marrow registry list.”

Twenty-mumble-mumble years later, I got the call. I’m a match for a man who needs my bone marrow. My current line of reasoning is pity for the poor man who receives my bone marrow, but then I also start to think, “Suck it, cancer patient, you are about to be filled to the brim with the sideshow carnival that is my bone marrow.”

Right off the bat, the worst news was that I have to stop drinking until the donation. It was a close call, because that man was ALMOST gonna die. Oh stop, you know I don’t love cheap merlot more than a fellow human being. I gave up the drinking. Then I found out that if I got pregnant, I couldn’t donate. Let me tell you that I’ve thought it through completely and the death of another human being might not be the absolute worst thing to come out of this scenario if I were pregnant. More to the point, if I were pregnant, there would be a dead man lying around, and trust me, it wouldn’t be the cancer patient.

Luckily, I have enough self-control to stop drinking and I’m not pregnant. The process by which doctors will suck the squish out of my bones is a go.

Then I learned that they have to kill off all his bone marrow before he can get any of mine, and they’re going to start that on Friday. And on the following Tuesday, I have to go pee on something and prove I’m not pregnant. Something weird occurred to me as I was talking to my mom about this whole thing:

“Wouldn’t you think they’d want to make sure I’m not pregnant before the start killing the guy?” I asked. Unfortunately, I have no filter, and I was standing in line in the gas station when I said those words all together. No, I wasn’t buying wine. I already said I had self-control.

Let’s just say, when you spit all those words out one right after another, people stare. It was really weird. They don’t even pretend that they’re not staring. They just look and look and look. I also learned there’s really no good way to explain why you just said all that, so I blurted out, “I really hope they catch the guy who did it,” and bolted from the gas station.