July 31, 2005

LORDS OF RAINBOW by Vera Nazarian
Vera Nazarian

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Sunday 7-31-05


A Ghost Through History

I don't give titles to my journal posts unless something momentous happens. Why? Because, why bother? It's the one thing I never particularly liked about canned blogging systems like LJ or Blogger, the forcing of titles before you can make a post. This journal, as far as I am concerned is a general cornucopia of news reportage with occasional outburst rants (my most intense rants I save for my SFF Net Newsgroup). Titles require encapsulation of thought and a unifying soundbite, or a selective mention of highlights, when for the most part I just want . . . well, to post. But now and then, something begs for a title.

Before getting into the something of this moment, I am going to summarize quickly the business end of stuff. The remodel construction is going on well, and we are at about the halfway point (one bathroom's more or less done, the other half way, and kitchen and laundry area still looming), and yes it is often crazy-making and intolerable and scream-worthy, but the results are good. The bad part is, the remodel is bleeding my money faster than I can blink. I am going to need to borrow from everyone and anyone, about $6,000 worth cumulatively (yes, you read that right, a scary huge sum, but this is home remodeling we are talking about) and I will be paying it back within 3 months (enough for the refinance to happen and all related contingencies until the equity money comes back into my pocket), and I will be offering 20% interest to the generous souls who lend me whatever amount they can manage. Please email me if you can help.

My Dragonpage radio/podcast interview is scheduled to be up tomorrow, August 1st, so please be sure to check out and download/listen. I haven't heard a playback of the show yet, but I remember sounding silly, giddy, and also talking way too much, while at the same time I was recovering from a horrible flu-like cold. Should be a podcast "event" to remember.

Got a couple of rejections that trickled in, an old one from Story House Coffee, one from Lust for Life: Tales of Sex & Love, and another from I forget where.

On the writing front, this remodel chaos has hardly been conducive to concentration, so I am way behind on turning in my collection manuscript edit and finishing up the new story. This is going to delay the release of Salt of the Air somewhat, probably till the fall.

On the other hand, my PS Publishing novella The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass has gone to the printers, and here is the final cover flat for the hardcover. I think it turned out fabulous, and the release is imminent, as in, any day now, but definitely in August. Go get your copy now, folks -- either the limited edition hardcover that is signed by Charles de Lint and myself, or the trade paperback which is signed by me only. If I were you I'd spring for the hardcover. ;-)

Huge congratulations going out to Holly Phillips who has been nominated for the super-prestigious, shiny-new and televised Quill Awards -- publishing's answer to the Oscars -- in the category Debut Author of the Year for her collection In the Palace of Repose.

A set of bear hugs going out to Lisa Silverthorne who has had some tough times recently with health and family and loss.

Congratulations and condolences to all the World Fantasy Award Nominees and those who should have been nominated but were not.

And oh, yeah, in all the discussions of movements and establishing that I and several others are Islands in the Stream, I have inadvertently created yet another sub-movement off the sword & sorcery genre, what I call Lace & Blade, and define as:

Where mythic high fantasy has been put in a blender together with strict old-fashioned Conan-style s&s action adventure, and what has emerged is romantic lyrical fantasy with swords and wonder and a bit of "girl cooties."

In other words, more sophisticated, more flambyant, and with a touch of cutting wit and darkness and romance in the original sense of the word than the early pulps version.

I also want to state for the record that I completely understand and support the folks who are rallying for sword & sorcery, the downtrodden lowly subgenre of fantasy, the ghetto within a ghetto; I am rallying too. And yes, there is the issue of some things being better written than others, and some tropes being overused, but it does not mean that the romantic wonderful kernel of the lone noble warrior -- the hero -- out to fight for what they believe in, is passe or should be disdained. Sword and sorcery will be alive in our hearts for as long as chivalry and knightly principles and the need for good old-fashioned ass-kicking in realms of fantastic wonder remain in the human race. I am all for it, as I am for raising it above the original simplistic adventure levels into the realm of sophistication. A perfect example of such elegant s&s is Tanith Lee's Cyrion.

Now, I promised to talk about a "something" that prompted the title of this entry. All the various discussions of genres, movements, etc, such as the ones over at the Tangent Online Forum, once again remind me, strike me in the gut with the reality that I find myself alienated from not just the world and other people -- that would be a rather common thing for a writer -- but also alienated from other writers and their alienation tropes. My personal reason for being an Island in the Stream is that I am between worlds, between times, living not in the current political and economic climate or the Western Civilization in the early 21st century, but I am living in the sum total scale of human history.

My concerns are universal (I am not just saying this in the cliche sense), and my tropes and themes are almost archetypal by modern standards. It's because this is how I see the world. I don't live in a city or culture or gestalt. I don't soak in my time and mores. There are no cultural habits I adhere to -- no real holidays, routines, social rituals, Friday nights or weekend outings. I watch politics unfold, and as they slide by, I see only ephemera -- human beings fight wars and commit horrendous selfish acts that do much to harm the rest of what's around them, and at the same time these same human beings try hard, and sometimes succeed in positive achievements, and certainly it is all a mess, but it is all temporary.

The world slides past, as I sit on a rapidly moving train and look outside the window at the flashing scenery. Ugliness (suffering, disaster, pain, loss, injustice) and beauty (joys, affection, holidays, loving moments of indulgence or selfless love) replace each other so fast that they blur and merge, and I am only secure in is the knowledge of the train around me (yes, it is a Russian train, the only kind I've been on, with old worn leather and red upholstery), the hardness of the seat and the table top, the light in the window, the flicker and the soothing rocking over the tracks.

It is flight.

This is what life is, and all the details that so many of my contemporaries latch onto and write about and get accolades for writing, and dwell upon -- it is all epemeral nonsense. The world is so much more than your immediate town, state, country, even continent, and yes, even civilization and modern-day mindset. Seems like a basic thing to realize, and yet, to so many writers -- and yes, to so many readers -- the expectations are so localized that the other things, the other details are ignored and all flash by just like that scenery outside the train window. They write (or read) only about the station at which the train stops, forgetting that for the greater part of its function, the train moves forward and the station is only a blip.

What about you? Do you live in the here and now? Or are you a little like me, with your perspective stretched out and lined up, often via books or old buildings and ancient paintings and still images of the past, pieces of jewelry worn by those long dead; a line of self reaching into the ancient classical days or earlier, with many -- infinite -- stops along the way, with sights and sounds and smells of the times and history all blended into the great single human crockpot, and slow-cooked, so that any single ingredient takes on the properties of others, and nothing stands alone, but blends with the pungent perspective of other things?

If you say yes, then you, too, are a ghost inhabiting the whole stretch of history, with its edges blurred in either direction.

Sunday 7-10-05


Islands in the Stream

Okay, buckle in for a long one, folksÖ.


Everybody's doing it, and it is laughable and annoying and even superfluous, but somehow it is handy to be categorized and pigeonholed as a specific kind of writer.

And so, like everyone and their granny, I've decided to announce my own movement, since apparently I donít fit anywhere else -- whether I choose to or not -- and it is lonely out here on the gen-lit fringes in my solitary pigeon stoop.

No, wait! Donít run! It is neat -- honest -- give me a chance to explainÖ.

The movement? Let's call it Islands in the Stream.

Read on, and if you believe you fit the definition, I welcome you to join me as one of the rock-solid Islands in the Stream -- my own notion of a "non-movement" movement, or a niche for those of us who really do not belong in any established one of the moment.

What the hell, you say, is this yet another movement-shaped thing? Wasn't it only last week that the latest movement was announced (New Edge, rearing its newly-armored sword & sorcery head) and people howled? What's the deal with Infernokrusher, Mundane SF, New Weird, New Fabulist, New Wavelet, Slipstream, Amorphous Blob, BM, Style Monkey, Interstitial, Braunsteinian, and anything else I might be forgetting that came on the scene in the last 2-3 years (and in some cases 2-3 days)?

Here's the thing. For as long as there are writers or other creative types who feel left out in one way or another, we will come up with these silly in-group classification things to make ourselves feel better. Heck, just considering it I am feeling better already, all nice and tinglyÖ.

Sure, I'd love to belong, just like you.

Iíd love to belong to the popular cutting edge. But unfortunately I... donít. (And many of my writer friends donít either.) I donít write straightforward, clear-cut modern genre that can be found in Asimov's/ Analog/ F&SF. But I also donít write slipstream or anything else razor-edge or blunted edge or whatever niche-like experimental cubbyhole people put themselves in these days. I donít write media fiction. And I donít write literary mainstream with just a delightful Borges whiff of the fantastic.

In fact, when I write, like many of my writer friends, I am all over the fucking place in a very intense way. Under the greater umbrella of speculative fiction, high and heroic and S&S fantasy, dark myth and light wonder, science fantasy, hard fantasy, SF, romantic epics, erotic lyrical prose, surreal riffs, realist slapstick comedies, techo-opera, retold fairy tales, kickass romance, non-fiction essays that go off into philosophical woo-woo land, and just Stuff (TM). Boy, am I screwed. I am so different in each thing I write that I cannot place myself except in the here and now. Compare my upcoming surreal Fantasy Magazine story "Sun, In Its Copper Season" with, maybe, my wacky Buffy-meets-the-Three-Stooges YA "Hell Week at Grant-Williams High". Who would think the same person wrote both of these? Or anything else I write? You never know what the next Nazarian work will be like. Hell, I never know what the next Nazarian work will be like.

Furthermore, despite the above-mentioned productive morass, my deepest preferences, as many of you already know, are for the stodgy long-winded classics and antiquities (a mixture of Homer and the Greeks, Hugo, Maupassant and the French, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and the Russians, etc, ancient epics and mythology), and I was accused by some of being too old-fashioned (read: stilted, stodgy, awkward) in my writing, in whatever sense you might choose to take it except an actual categorizable one.

Now, it would be infinitely easy to explain my problem away by saying that I suck as a writer -- that I am a second-caliber beginner or has-been (if you choose to note that my first pro publication was in 1985, and what do I have to show for myself over the last 20 years?), and that the reason I am still a Published Small Fry in the midlist without ever having hit the main list is that I am simply mediocre (ouch!). But that's not the case either; I know, I am reasonably good, otherwise Iíd just stop writing and shut the hell up.

What then? Could it be that the contemporary movements simply donít fit me? Or maybe by nature I donít "fit" a movement?


In reality, I am tired of excusing what I am as a writer and what I like in my fiction, at the same time as the publishing world is passing me by with their hot and hip trendoids of the hour. I am also tired of trying to fit my flexible amoeba-like creativity into some kind of fixed shape, no matter how attractive or ornate. Finally, I am weary of explaining to people what kind of writer I really am -- a little of Tanith Lee, a little of Bruce Holland Rodgers, a little of Victor Hugo, a little of Alexander Pushkin, a little of Homer, a little of Marion Zimmer Bradley, a little of traditional realism, a little of surreal dreams made flesh, a little of far future techno, a little of ancient myth. Et cetera, ad infinitum.


So, this is my official defense in the form of an offence.

As of this moment, I am an Island in the Stream, and I write Wonder Fiction.

That's my "movement," and I am proud of it, to the extent of being dropped in my "own" little cubbyhole at last. (And Wonder Fiction is my Stream flavor -- collect your own.)

You too can consider yourself a part of this if you, as a writer, are an unsinkable rock, and the waters swirl around you while you sing yourself hoarse with passion. The only set of criteria for being one of the Islands in the Stream is that you make your own literary stand against all odds. As you do your own thing there is an intensity that sets you apart and makes the timbre of your voice different from all others. If this were a choir, then you're a power soloist inadvertently stuck in with the tinny second sopranos, and everyone can hear you do your part anyway.

Thus you are not submerged in a sea of others like you, all of similar voices. Let others diminish themselves to harmonize; you are born to solo -- from above or from below. The uniqueness itself defines you and uplifts you out of any group or movement. This way you are alone in the clarity and passion of your voice; for there is nothing else similar about any of us that are Islands. And, this has nothing to do with "transcending genre," and everything to do with transcending voice.

We, Islands in the Stream, have absolutely nothing in commonÖ. Only our personal intensity.

The publishing Stream flows wild, with its quirky rapids and ever-changing trends, and natural erosion of land occurs, and your rock buttress undergoes slow glacial change, as you grow and evolve as a writer -- being an Island in the Stream does not preclude such growth -- but your fundamental core remains, sitting deep in the bedrock that underlies the Stream floor.

From Hemingway to the song by Kenny Rodgers and Dolly Parton (Lyrics by Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb?), the sentiment is clear:

Islands in the stream, that is what we are
No one in between, how can we be wrong
Sail away with me to another world

Adding to that definition above that I choose as the spirit of the movement, we have:

And we rely on each other, uh huh
From one lover to another, uh huh
Sail away, oh come sail away with me Ö

In the latter part above, is the spirit of camaraderie that being one of the Islands in the Stream conveys. The writer is a lonely beast, and yet the great Archipelago unites and connects us all (even though the above lyrics are dorky-sentimental and they attempt to rhyme).

One of the things that tipped me over and made me formally get on the movement bandwagon is this post by Catherynne M. Valente. I think she's a perfect example of an Island in the Stream. She is a brilliant prose-poet and she is unmistakable in style, complexity, and depth of erudition, as demonstrated in THE LABYRINTH, and more recently in YUME NO HON, THE BOOK OF DREAMS. I predict that her poetry chapbook ORACLES will become a classic of the American 21st century. She eats a classical encyclopedia for breakfast, and burps up paeans. And her writer's voice -- voce! -- is as loud as a bullhorn cornucopia. Forget Slipstream and New Weird, she is Valente Weird, Valente Stream -- a genuine Island.

Another example of an Island in the Stream is Lisa Silverthorne. Completely unlike Cat Valente, or myself, Lisa is a serene and lyrical presence, like the deep waters of the Sound in the Pacific Northwest. She is cerulean calm and grey skies over a body of infinite depths. Noise and clamor is quenched upon the surface -- and then you drown. At its shining best, her speculative fiction is mainstream realist with a hint of otherworldly grace, that elusive sense of wonder that so many of us strive for in a much more crude, louder way, but which Lisa Silverthorne manages to evoke by things fine and ordinary like dust motes in the air. If you have not yet encountered her fiction, be prepared for THE SOUND OF ANGELS, her amazing debut collection, coming later this year from Wildside.

Want an Island in the Stream that combines satire, literary finesse, and pathos? I give you Anna Tambour, an Australian whose debut collection MONTERRA'S DELICIOSA and first novel SPOTTED LILY, are so unclassifiable that I can only mention distillations -- of Bulgakov, Kafka, Philip Pullman, the absurdists. Anna is not to be slipstreamed or New Weirded, nor otherwise pigeonholed. She is herself, and her voice is unmistakable Tambour in its playful agony, its sorrow and irony and natural joy, to the point of shocking the reviewer at Publishers Weekly who declared her debut novel SPOTTED LILY to be "like a bracing tonic."

Unlike Anna, or Lisa, or Cat or myself, there is Holly Phillips. You think you know surrealism or slipstream when you see IN THE PALACE OF REPOSE? Hell no, Holly is Poe drunk on wonder, crying into his glass underneath a startling decorated fir tree in the alien wilderness. How the fuck do you place her in a movement? Why the fuck should you? Holly is an Island in the Stream.

And what about Jeff VanderMeer, Ron Collins, Kurtis Roth, Terry McGarry, Erin Cashier Denton, Nick Mamatas? All, Islands in the Stream. Some, almost unknown, others rising like meteors. And damn, but all of them are brilliant, and ringing with passion of the writer -- and each doing it differently.

You might say at this point that anyone who's "Hot and Now" (as Lois Tilton might say) can be made to fit this label. Well, sure, we are all unique, yadda yadda. But to be an Island in the Stream by my definition, you also have to be an Endangered Species, the Lone, the Last, or the Only of your Kind.

In other words, you have to be so strongly Yourself that you cannot be classified.

With all that said, please welcome us into the movement fold.

In conclusion, I might note that this idea has occurred to me a while ago, back in the days when New Weird was just announced and bandied about.

Back in February, 2003 (2-17-03), I said:

There has been a lot of conversation going around the NAW and WebRats ... about movements and waves and new wavelets and currents in the genre. Here are some things that Trey and Paul Melko and Mike Jasper summarize. And here are a couple of interesting things in rebuttal by M. Lynn Booker that bring up a completely contrary perspective here and here.

I tend to look at it this way. I am not a part of any wave and if or when I and my peers first "broke" on the scene about 7 years ago (I was writing decades longer, but I think 1996 was when I first got a web presence and really mini-blipped the radar as a Published Small Fry), at that point any and all waves passed me by.

I mentioned in Jenn Reese's comments section that if anything I am "an Island in the Stream" and the rest of us "Islands in the Stream"-ers sort of write and do our own thing regardless of genre and social trends.

"So," I said to Jenn, "be a ROCK, hon, be your own rock, and you don't need no steeenkin' waves!"

Okay. Maybe it's because we are somewhat "lame" and "uncool," and our work does not reach as far and speak for the most modern current audience's tastes. Maybe not. But whatever it is, that's how it is. :-) For example, I wrote an antiquated totally non-cool novel in a stodgy old-fashioned language, and that is DREAMS OF THE COMPASS ROSE, of which I am rather proud. And I continue to write stuff that does not really fall to any movement or click at any slickness level, just whatever the heck strikes me -- uncool sword and sorcery and high fantasy, traditional fantasy and sf, stuff that inspires me.

Instead of being envious of the new "movement," I am rather bemused. Now, don't get me wrong -- I appreciate and enjoy all the younger new wavers, and I think that in a sense they really are hot and their work is slick and highly admirable. But I do think that in the long run, it is best not to associate yourself too tightly with any particular movement or wave if you want to really write only what comes from the heart and what is not hinged on particular expectations. Just a bit of long-term advice, to prevent stagnation, that's all. Meanwhile, enjoy your movement, folks, and I will look on with much appreciation.

And that's then. Now's the time for the Islands in the Stream.

Tuesday 7-5-05


1993 ? - July 4, 2005

Angel was my best dog friend.

Loyal, gentle, smart, protective, brave, he was the perfect dog. A black cocker spaniel with soulful eyes who used to put his chin on my lap and look at me with sentient love.

Even the story of how I got Angel is interesting. Back around '95-96 I used to work in the warehouse in Compton in the Dominguez Hills Business Park warehouse complex where they temporarily moved my tech support department for two years (and then again moved us back to Santa Monica).

One day as I was doing my morning commute, I was driving up to the warehouse parking lot, and saw on the green lawns across the street this black moving spot -- a typical stray dog of medium size running warily, sniffing the ground. I had no idea what he was, but I immediately thought I should try to give him some food. I don't remember now if I had something on me in my lunch box, or more likely I parked, and then ran into the office area and asked one of my tech support co-workers, Bruce, for something from his "larder" (the guy would always have food at work).

Armed with a somewhat stale roll, I ran back outside, and I remember throwing half of it, and watching the black dog run away and cross the street. I pursued, then threw the other half, then retreated back across the street. The dog was smart enough to come back and he ate the bread. Then he sort of continued sniffing the area of the corporate lawns. I couldn't stick around since I had to get to work, but I decided that even if the dog was not still around at lunch, I would drive to the supermarket closest the warehouse and grab a bag of dog food, just in case. Our dogs at home could always eat it.

So, during lunch I got the dog food, both dry and some cans (or maybe the cans came the next day), and I happened to notice that luckily the dog was still out there. He had actually entered our huge warehouse and was running on concrete somewhere between the large semi and hauler trucks.

I got a plastic bowl and filled it with water, then got another bowl and filled it with the cheap kibble, and tried to go tracking him. I was bad -- I did this not only during my 15 minute breaks and took more than the minimum time. Good thing I had a very understanding boss, and the coworkers were nice too. ;-)

I don't remember exactly if the dog ate the first day, but I know he was in and out all over the building's lot outside. My co-workers were teasing me that I was a silly dog person. On the following day, I brought the canned food from home. I hadn't much hope the dog was still there, but turns out that luckily he was locked in for the night in the huge gated security warehouse of our company property, and so he couldn't leave even if he wanted to. When I say locked in, he probably didn't even know he was, since the building and parking lots were huge, front and back, and he was probably just wandering around in the gated area.

Well, for the next couple of days he became our warehouse dog, and everyone knew I was trying to catch him. I knew I couldn't keep him, since I already had two dogs at home at this point, but I felt I couldn't just leave him, so I was asking people if anyone would take him. He finally started to eat from the food and water dish consistently, and on every lunch and break I would sit out there with him and try to talk to him and make him less afraid. For a while he would never let anyone near him, and I could only get about 20 paces before he growled at me and ran.

Eventually he got better used to me. At some point he would come almost near when called, and several times, he would enter the warehouse's parts and manufacturing assembly line area, and people would laugh. He would be sort of peeking in with his head, looking for me, then take a couple of steps inside. But the moment anyone tried to get near him, he ran away. :-) As I sat at my workstation throughout the day often co-workers would pass by and tell me, "I saw your dog here on the parts assembly line, he came in again," or "Your dog is in the shrinkwrap area, looking for you."

All during the week people would ask me, so how's the progress. I called people in the Santa Monica main corporate office, to see if anyone there would want to keep him, and this one woman in customer service said yes, she might want to. All I needed to do now was tame and catch this little guy.

As the week went on, I was getting desperate. He couldn't be on our company property forever, and even my understanding boss was beginning to hint that we couldn't have him there much longer. So sometime in the middle of the second week, I increased my efforts. He would always appear when I came out with the morning food. I remember spending lunch periods sitting on the concrete steps or the ground just several steps away from his food dish and talking gently to him as he ate.

I was beginning to despair. I remember the hot breeze blowing and at one point I moved over in the shade and sat on the curb. I sat there, nearly crying in frustration.

And then, suddenly, I see this poor dog who has finished eating, come up to me, for the first time he was close enough to touch, and I just froze so as not to scare him, and then he just sat down right next to me, against my thigh and put his head in my lap and sighed in relief. It was as if he suddenly learned to trust.

It was amazing. I decided right there and then that his name had to be Angel. I petted him and we continued sitting on the concrete curb, and then I had to go back into the office. I knew that the following day I would take him home temporarily -- until the woman from the other office could come by and take him.

The following day I got to work, and for some reason I don't think I had the right kind of leash or something. At least the dog had an old red collar tight around his neck, so there was at least some way of tying him.

In the office I had a brilliant idea. We had a whole bunch of networking cable. The thicker blue kind. We used to even jump rope with it, or otherwise mess around. So I got me this very long piece and doubled it, and it had these RJ-45 connectors on it. Then, toward the end of the workday I went outside with the cable in search of Angel. He was coming home with me that night, if only I could catch him.

I remember sort of calling him and walking and looking for him under and around parked semis and trucks and finally I got him "cornered" in the shaded area near the entrance. He came up to me, and immediately I stuck the one end of the co-ax network cable under his collar (he had no loop on it -- it was just the collar itself I could use for leverage), and then I pulled it through, and doubled it and made a hand loop. Tada! Angel was mine!

I walked him to my jeep in the front lot -- and he was pulling hard on the network cable, unused to it -- and I opened the jeep door, and I remember co-workers waving at me and some came by to watch me load Angel into my car. I got him in the front passenger seat, and out some kibble down for him, and he climbed into the seat next to me and lay down. A very good boy!

We drove home on that horrible long commute on the 405, and I remember being very very careful, and driving slower and gentler than normal. I also talked to Angel constantly and sang to him. I sang the Juice Newton song "Angel of the Morning," that goes:

"Just call me Angel of the morning, Angel,
Just touch my cheek before you leave me, baby..."

I sang that song all the way home, and it became Angel's song...

When we got home, I unloaded him (almost losing him right out of the car, but he was smart enough not to bolt from me), then let him out into the back yard. The other dogs were still in, and we let them out one by one, and they all sniffed each other, and got used to each other pretty quickly. Angel was so happy that he ran around, his ears flopping, and he peed from joy. My mother was amazed at what a fine beautiful dog he was. It was April 12, I forget what year.

And overnight we decided to keep him. I called the woman in the Santa Monica office and told her.... My co-workers found out and laughed at me, that I kept him. I guess no one was really surprised.

Angel was a wonderful loving creature. He was not completely young -- his collar was so tight around his neck that we guessed that he might have gotten lost or stray when he was really young, and his neck grew into the collar, nearly choking him. Which means he probably was a stray for some time.

When we took him to the vet, they told us he was already long-fixed and at least three years old.

When I would come home from work he would greet me with such happiness that he often peed himself. This decreased with time, but still, poor guy had a minor peeing problem always.

Angel spent all his time at my side, sitting at my feet as I sat at home at the computer. He would eat tons and then fart a whole lot happily, and I called him Angel the Farty Dog. He was there when I wrote my stories and my books and posted online, he was here at all the moments and all seasons, and he was my best dog friend.

Angel was very possessive, and he loved to be petted and held, and he would roll up on his back and show his tummy. When other dogs or cats tried to come up to me, he would whine and try to shove them away, then stick his face at me and stare with these big dark warm eyes. He was saying, you're mine!

He was very expressive and gentle, and took his treats with a soft mouth. He had a funny hard nose that he loved to stick at you and rub against your leg.

Many years he lived with us, at least nine, and we are guessing he was around twelve. Recently he had gotten to be very fat (all of our animals are) but I think the vet told us he also had a thyroid problem, but the pills we put him on did not really do much, and he refused them. He was still very healthy overall, just slow and heavy and lay around much. He sometimes would pee in the kitchen at night, since it was not easy for him to get up.

Yesterday, July 4th, he threw up earlier in the day -- threw up the whole thing he ate. Then towards evening he was sort of sitting near the water dish in the backyard, and he looked a bit sickly, leaning to the side.

I was outside, and as the twilight came, the fireworks started, and many people in the neighborhood were sending up rockets and sparklers.

Angel sat out in the grass, which was not usual since he usually returned inside for the night, but mom and I thought maybe he was enjoying the cooler evening air. So we just let him. I stood on the back porch and watched the fireworks, while some of the cats and dogs walked near my feet and enjoyed the grass too.

Little did I know that maybe Angel was passing on. That maybe he was shooting up into the sky, his spirit one of those flashing rockets of fire....

He lay there in the grass, and it got dark, and we just didn't think he was still out there. I think I went inside to make some food for Mom in the skillet. The Independence Day fireworks died out.

I remember sitting at my computer, running the washer and dryer, then going to bed around 1:30 AM, since I had to be up at 7:00 AM today.

At around 2:00 AM, my Mom opened my bedroom door, and she said, she looked outside and he never came in for the night, and I think the dog is dead.

We went outside and he was there, lying on his side in the grass, facing east. He was still a little warm around his dear fat belly. His floppy ears were covering his face.

We got a sheet and put him on it, and carried him from the grass (the sprinklers would come on in the morning) and onto the stone patio.

We went to bed, and tried sleeping, and I know I got up many times and cried, and then maybe got an hour of sleep before the alarm rang.

In the cooler misty morning, there he was lying wrapped in the sheet.

I got ready for the construction crew and after they got here at 8:00 AM, I talked to them, then mom and I carried him in the sheet to my jeep.

I drove him to the vet, singing Juice Newton's "Angel of the Morning" all the way. As it begins, so it ends. Angel had to have his song.

At the vet's they put him on a gurney and I cried and I looked at his dear face one more time before they took him away, then drove home.

Rest in peace, Angel, my dear best friend. You were there for so many moments of our common life, shared.

Until we meet again.

Just call me Angel, a morning Angel.
Just touch my heart and never leave me, baby....


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