How do you know you aren’t dead?

I think I’ve already expressed how discombobulated I’ve been feeling lately. I’ve acknowledged all the major changes in my life in the last eight months, and I’ve been trying to cut myself some slack about feeling a little … off. Mostly, I’ve been blaming my disorientation on inconsistent sleep and work schedules. In a recent post, I admitted that I feel like I’m sleepwalking or dreaming much of the time.

I had a rough day at the hotel. When I work the first shift, part of my job is doing the audit just before 1:00p. That means, in a short period of time, I have to count out the cash drawer, close my shift, audit the day’s sales (in both the computer’s reservation system and on the credit card machine,) prepare some reports, drop my cash, and start a new shift. It’s not hard. Repeatedly, however, my manager has stressed the importance of finishing the tasks BEFORE the hotel’s day rolls over … at precisely 1:01p.

Today, at 12:38p, the drawer came up $247.23 short.

Right about then, one of the housekeepers rushed up to the desk to say she was out of towels. I assured her there was a load in the dryer that would be ready for me to fold in about fifteen minutes. Panic flared in her eyes. She didn’t move; she didn’t say anything. A fly landed on the shiny marble desktop between us. She didn’t even glance at it. I said, “Maybe a little less than fifteen minutes?”  She sighed, then trudged away from me, shaking her head.

Green Bottle Fly by John Talbot


I set to staring at first one report then another. A couple of (precious) minutes later I heard someone come into the lobby and stride toward the desk. I looked up. My (gorgeous) husband smiled down at me, then asked if I would like him to fetch some lunch. Of course I was nice to him, but all I could really do was shoo him away as fast as possible and hope that he wouldn’t come back until I had dealt with my problems.

Just before 1:00p, I realized the guy who had worked the night shift had screwed up. Once I figured that out, I was able to tally a proper cash drop – of more than $700 dollars – for both of us. When my husband returned, he didn’t ask any questions; he only handed a paper bag and a huge soda to me and wished me luck. I finished the audit late. (Which did cause some complications later in the day, but I survived.) I got the towels folded before the housekeeper could melt down entirely, and started another load washing.

By 1:30p I was sitting in my chair, eating a cold hamburger, thinking about how much of my life has become weirdly repetitive. The particular chain of events that had frazzled me, on this particular day, was a slightly fresh twist on individual events that happen again and again.

In the last few months at work, I have washed, dried and folded hundreds (thousands?) of white towels and white sheets. I have counted an obscene amount of money out of cash drawers. (And freaked-out repeatedly about apparent discrepancies, which I eventually solve.) I always wear the same clothes. (A uniform shirt and the one pair of black pants that I own.) 

At home, I wash my uniform shirts and pants multiple times each week. When I do that, I always take the dog with me, and I always use the same machine. I eat the same meals over and over, now that I don’t really cook anymore. I almost always fall asleep on the sofa. (I’m still trying to make it all the way through a show I recorded weeks ago.)

As I was chewing on my burger (and my thoughts) the fly made another appearance. Its flight pattern was erratic. It landed often, resting briefly, before struggling back up into the air to bumble along for another foot or two.

I started thinking about how flies do that in the autumn, when cool evenings force them to shelter indoors. The phenomenon has been more obvious to me since we moved to the apartment. Out at the “farm”, flies were more common, and I didn’t pay much attention to their behaviors. (I suppose they were attracted to the chickens … which was unfortunate for the flies, because chickens love nothing better than to snack on flies.) In town, I had only noticed flies within the last month or so. In the apartment, we hardly ever see an insect indoors, probably because we live on the second floor. Because I’ve become spoiled by the absence of creepy-crawlies, I often just leave the patio door part-way open. (The cat and dog like to wander out onto the balcony, then back in.) Lately, a few flies have taken advantage of my carelessness.

After I finished my lunch, I sorted the mail. (Some of our guests use the hotel like a rooming house, even receiving regular mail delivery there.) Once I’d marked the correct room number on each envelope and tossed them into a nearby outbox, the desktop was clear for the first time in the day.

It was at that moment that I realized that I did not KNOW  I had dropped the cash into the lockbox at the end of audit-time. I racked my memory. I could clearly picture myself sealing the envelope and writing the total on it. I remembered setting it aside, so that I could run the audit reports. I might have set my lunch bag on top of it after my husband left it with me.

I may have – must have, I told myself – slipped it into the slot as I passed by it, on my way to the laundry room to fold those damn towels.

I propped my elbows on the desk, in the space I’d just cleared, and dropped my face into my palms. I am so fucking tired of not having a functional brain, I thought. I am so fucking tired, period.

For the last three mornings running, I’d been awakened – earlier than I would like – by a single fly that likes to land – over and over – on whatever exposed skin it can find.

Do you know what occurred to me then, while I sat with my head in my hands? Flies like dead things.

Actions repeated over and over and over again. Lost memories. Disorientation.

Kinda sounds like the way a ghost would perceive its existence, doesn’t it?

Off-topic: News on the chickens, the apartment, and other stuff.

I know it’s supposed to be Media Monday, but the truth is I haven’t had any time lately to watch an interesting paranormal-themed film for review or commentary. In these last few hours – which I blocked out for writing / blogging time – I should have been composing something spooky, but instead I’ve been writing a brief chicken-care manual, and individual bios for each of my hens, in an effort to finalize the arrangements for our girls. I received quick responses, so I now have some news about the fate of the chickens.

Our nine girls are to be split into two town-sized flocks. As I write this, two different households are busily planning and building back-yard coops. One flock of four – including Buff the Bantam, whose photo I posted here a while back – will be living with my daughter’s best friend (and her family). The other five – including the giant twins that were partially visible in that same photo – will be living with a family which includes twin daughters! (How perfect is that?)

There are other developments in this unexpected, but not entirely unwelcome, process of changing everything about our lives. You may recall we were working on re-homing a total of five cats. Three of them have been spoken for. We have found an apartment that we love and we will be moving in February. There are no new jobs for either of us yet, but we’ve crafted resumes, and the application blitz will begin this week. We’ve started sorting our ten-years-in-the-same-house possessions, and I’m surprised to find that I am enjoying simplifying and down-sizing. That’s all the news for now.

In the spirit of Media Monday, I will take this opportunity to point you to a PBS video that increased my understanding of (and mania for) chickens. It is currently available, via  instant streaming, from Netfix. (Or to purchase from PBS.)

Image of Natural History of Chickens DVD

Click here to go to PBS for an overview and ordering information.

If you have an interest in these amazing, wonderful, surprising creatures, this program is a great way to spend an hour. (Learn, for example, about Mike the Headless Chicken and a brave little silkie hen who protected her chicks from a bird of prey.)

Last day of January, WriMoProg: 13 + 71 = 84/200 How am I going to set a goal for February?

Real life is too scary – I want to get back to the ghosts.

My intention was to follow my recent post – I’m going to need a new tagline. – with one more in keeping with my usual topics. (A meditation on why so many stairways seem to be haunted, maybe, or a photo-essay of a local abandoned house.) Instead, I feel compelled to write a bit more about our situation, because, upon reading the comments it garnered, I am beginning to think that I didn’t share quite enough.

We do not want to give up the chickens. If we thought we could stay here, we would certainly count on those reliable old girls to help us out with their eggs.

My husband’s former position (ok – salary), however, will not easily be replaced, and I haven’t held a regular job in 10 15 … since I was a young, miniskirt wearing, single mom, slinging drinks. For multiple reasons, we will be living on a fraction of what we have grown accustomed to – and we’ll be doing it for a good long while. We can’t afford to stay here.

There. I said it straight out.

We are about to experience a major lifestyle change. The positive spin is that the change is one we were very slowly and gradually working toward. It’s just happening before we were ready for it.

We will be moving to a medium-sized town, where there will be jobs (for all of us) that don’t require a commute like the one my husband has been enduring for a decade. We will live in a two bedroom apartment – just me, my husband, a strapping 16-year-old son, an oops-he’s-bigger-than-we-thought-he’d-be dog, and *some goldfish named Chicken. We will enjoy having a reliable internet connection and decent water pressure.

We will miss the stars, and the wild turkeys, and the fire ring, and the … well, lots of stuff – but we knew this phase of our life would end eventually. (The some-day goal still includes a trio of hens in a cute, town-sized coop, but we won’t have a yard any time soon.)

We had hoped that our geriatric hens would peacefully expire before the time for our migration came. Now that I’m sharing how I really feel, I might as well tell you we also have to re-home our two elderly cats. As well as my mother’s adorable but ridiculous pedigreed Persian. (He’s just a yearling, but we reluctantly took him in when she recently moved to a retirement home.) AND we’re worried about the two “feral” cats that adopted our barn because the mouse-hunting was good, thanks to the scattered cracked corn.

I had also hoped that I would be contributing financially to that new lifestyle with my writing. Now I’m worried those ambitions will have to be set aside, again, as I figure out how to hold a proper job.

The truth is, I’m freaking out. I just don’t want to bring too much of that into this blog. My chicken/tagline post was an effort to acknowledge the situation in a darkly-humorous sort of way – the way in which I thought “The Paranormalist” would handle it.

I can tell you right now, it’s easier that way. These upcoming changes are so huge for me that I assume some of my real-world angst and confusion and awkwardness will continue to bleed into my blog, but – mostly – I’m just hoping that I can figure out how to keep writing about my beloved creepy stuff.

So. Next post: Abandoned house or haunted stairways?


*The number of goldfish we will have is in negotiation. I was thinking nine, in honor of the hens in our current flock. My beloved is thinking three, in expectation of our future trio.

WriMoProg note: 4 + 40 = 44/200