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Last night Sir James came upstairs for the first time. In life, his bad hips prevented him from making the climb. At bedtime, I gently carried his floral tin of ashes to my room and set him by the bed. I placed one smooth black stone from Iceland on the tin.

"There you go, boy," I said. "There you go."

*****

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Lady Isabella grows longer and longer. At 17 weeks, she is an Edward Gorey dog, a Tim Burton creation, all points and lines and slashes of motion. She is very food-focused, which is good, because I am not above bribing for love. She does not love me yet, but she loves my warmth and the taste of mushy treat residue on my fingers. In time she may love me as well, but I place no bets.

*****

My great-aunt (well, something cousin something removed -- my father's first cousin) passed away, after an extraordinary life of resilience and loving partnership with her husband of many, many years. He's asked me to say something at her memorial service. I am tongue-tied already. She can see me now, I think. What can I say, about a life so well lived? What can I say now, believing as I do that she can see this life of mine?

I ask her to please look away. I am doing the best I can, even if it doesn't look like much.

She was the last keeper of the family secrets on my father's side.

I need a proper dress.

*****

Fanny the Red is always seeking me out, wanting to make eye contact, to commune. I get exasperated with her anxious behavior.

Then I think: what if she's just an outward reflection of my own anxiety? What would happen to her if I became blithe and carefree -- careless even? Would she be an entirely new dog?

*****

So I still have these children.

*****

I am thinking about propane. I cannot make it through another winter. Heating this house with oil has me in debt. But propane: I think of mobile homes, families charred to a crisp in the middle of the night. I do not know if this is an accurate line of thinking.

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I have very few answers.

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My money-saving culinary experiment worked this week. The girls were with their father. So I did not buy any groceries. I lived off whatever was left in the dark recesses of the cupboard and fridge. Split pea soup that gave me heartburn, but filled my belly. Lentil soup, a bit watery, but serviceable. Chickpea curry with wilted Brussels sprouts. Sticky rice pudding, made in the crockpot. Gordon Ramsay would not be impressed, but I got by -- high fives to me.

*****

The dreams, ah, the dreams! How relentless they are. Some of you would be flattered to know how often I meet you when I am asleep. Some of you are nicer there than you are in real life. 

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The gutter pipe attached to the front porch is no longer fully attached. I fear it will come loose in the middle of the night and smash the windshield of my car. I tried to pull it down when my car was safely parked elsewhere, but I couldn't manage it alone. Pine tree broken and folded in backyard, gutter pipe (which rhymes with guttersnipe) ready to jump to its death, and a roof ready to give out.

"I need a home equity loan," I said to the bank lady. "I can't fix things without it."

"You don't qualify for a home equity loan," she said sadly.

"But I pay my mortgage," I said. "There's money in the house. I hear people do this all the time."

"Yes, but you're not those people."

"What people am I?" I wanted to ask, but didn't. I was already on my way to the car, hunched, shoulders up about my ears. I think there are people who cannot imagine that they could ask, and not receive.

*****

I have ptosis, just like Paris Hilton. I will always have Paris.

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I believe Moe the cat is actually a familiar. He looks at me with such love, comes when I call, curls like a baby in my arm, belly-up. He seems to be waiting for my spellcraft, my bidding. He is eager to help. I like that in a mammal.

*****

I work some. I write some. I watch Battlestar Galactica. Every day, I make myself throw out one more useless item. At this rate, I will be on the cover of Architectural Digest in no time at all, which is to say, no time would be long enough. They will interview me exactly never about my empowering minimalist style and profound use of different shades of white.