fantasy fiction novelette Tales from the Subcontinent

story sale

Hmm-hah. Dusty. Apparently I’ve had nothing to say to the internet at large for quite some time.

But news today: My fourth sale to the estimable online monthly GigaNotoSaurus. Editor Rashida J. Smith estimates “The Tale of the Ive-ojan-akhar’s Death” will be posted next summer or a bit later, depending on inventory. Long after I’ve spent the payment, then.

Begun years ago in Rhode Island, completed here in Oregon, “Ive-ojan-akhar” is a tale from the history of the  Kandadal’s World, taking place about two hundred years after “The Oily Man” (in Berman, ed., Handsome Devil, 2014) in some of the same locales. It’s long, elliptical, difficult, and I quite like it. I’m gratified Rashida does as well.

Otherwise: It’s summer, finally, and my garden looks well.

6 June 2017, dawn

Other-otherwise, the novel I’ve been secretively writing since November reached the 300-typescript-page landmark last night.

Dear Writers

dear author

of the 3200-page fantasy epic I just finished rereading and quite enjoyed even while marvelling that it seems a kind of Ur-text for Diana Wynne Jones’s Tough Guide to Fantasyland and despite my frequent grumbles that you don’t need a strained “evocative” simile every. other. damned. paragraph and though I died a little with each comic-book !?,

I will pass over your struggles with transitive lay and intransitive lie. Evidence suggests you or your copyeditor were aware of the problem and you did get it correct roughly half the time.


In English the third-person personal pronouns (she, he, they…but not it, poor it), like the first person (I, we), retain case markings as the vast majority of nouns do not. If you are going to name numinous personages with pronoun phrases—She Who Must Be Obeyed, let’s say—those numinous pronouns really ought still to behave like pronouns.

That is, when in a sentence said numinous personage is the object of a verb or preposition She becomes Her, He becomes Him, They become Them. Simply substitute the pronoun alone for the entire name to see how, honestly, stupid it sounds when done wrong (i.e., how you did it): She asked He to deliver a thing to They.

No no no.

She Who Must Be Obeyed required Him Who Always Follows to convey a quest object to Them Who Stand in the Background.

And if one of your mortal characters addresses such a numinous personage directly, let’s say in prayer, for clarity’s, grace’s, and syntax’s sake third person really should become second: Oh, You Who Must Be Obeyed, hear my plea!

Also finally, although my unabridged assures me the battle was lost years ago and mutter living language mutter, I personally was for precious seconds thrown entirely out of your imagined world every time a character flaunted the rules rather than flouting them.

fantasy fiction Tales from the Subcontinent

look here

My obscurely published 2012 story “Two Dead Men”—second written, first published of the Tales from the Kandadal’s World—has been reprinted online at Lightspeed magazine. The November issue is here, although not all the contents have gone live yet, or you may look into purchasing the entire issue or a subscription in various e-book format here.

Dear Writers

Dear Writers,

I used to do this on Facebook but I’m not really using Facebook these days and if (when, in all frankitude) I return I expect my, uh, social strategies will have changed. So we’ll do this here and, in the future, you may use the category Dear Writers to retrieve all the lessons.

That out of the way: jesusgod, people, stop. pushing. my. buttons.

everyday (one word) = adjective: ordinary, unexciting, habitual
He wore his everyday suit to the ball. Scandal!
I did the everyday cleanup of the cat box.
She had a ho-hum, everyday sort of face.

every day (two words) = adverbial phrase: recurring at twenty-four-hour intervals
We went to the beach every day last summer.
Every day she contemplates killing her boss.
Will you loathe me every day as you do today?

On another matter: If you type My short story, “The Best Piece of Fiction Ever Composed,” has been selected for reprint in a prestigious annual or Random House will publish my novel, You Can’t Even Imagine Writing Something This Good, next summer, your parenthesizing commas are saying you have only ever produced one short story/novel and will never write another. I hope this is not true. (…Or maybe I don’t, if you keep this up.) Deploy punctuation with discretion and care lest it bite it you.

Edited to add[endum] some hours later because jesusgod:

You do know, don’t you…. Oh, rats, I’m being disingenuous there. Some of you—some of you who write for well regarded outlets which might be assumed to employ copyeditors—clearly don’t know that populous and populace are not the same word. (My computer’s dictionary says they’re pronounced the same but not in my idiolect.) Different parts of speech even.

populous, adjective, referring to a location, meaning well peopled, heavily peopled, perhaps jam-packed with people

populace, noun, meaning the collective human persons who inhabit a location (which need not be populous)

A further note of caution. Populace and population are very nearly synonymous, but where population is a relatively neutral, value-judgment-free term that does not invariably refer to human persons, populace is not. The value judgment is right there in the etymology: from Italian popolaccio “common people,” from popolo “people” + the pejorative suffix -accio. In plain words, populace is rabble, the great unwashed, those people with whom we the élite do not associate and to whom we condescend. When, for example, you are speaking from your well regarded bully pulpit about the Great People of the United States of America (no, I do not plan to name my target but I do have one) and mean to be complimentary rather than snide, you should really think twice before calling them (us, frankly) the populace. Perhaps if you had thought twice you would not then have screwed up even further by typing populous.

fantasy fiction novelette self

spring is here*

And with it my first published story in two years. Go. Read. (It’s free.) Then, if you missed it and if you like, there’s a bit of background on “The Garden of Sons and Husbands” here.**


* Or so they say. I am not so sure. El-Niño-birthed weather patterns mean it’s been dismal in the southern Willamette Valley: grey, chilly, rainy—oh, the rain. Until this week there hasn’t been a stretch of more than four days without it since December, I think, and I don’t trust the current sunny respite.

Or maybe I’m just still in a dismal, wintry mood, unable or unwilling to appreciate the springiness in the air. Because the truth is the winter 2015-16 was thoroughly unpleasant. I was sick, so sick, from mid-December until…well, officially I’m mostly recovered and convalescing on schedule but I wouldn’t say I’m well. A few words: Pneumonia. Pleurisy. Empyema. Three weeks ago I was in hospital with a tube in my chest and IV fluids and antibiotics dripping into my veins. Since then I’ve had a fancy catheter in my right arm for the daily outpatient infusion of yet more weapons-grade antibiotics—scheduled to come out this afternoon. Finally, thank merciful and compassionate God, I’ll be able to take a shower.

So, yeah. It’s been ugly and I have accomplished little these four months besides attempting to regain my health.

So there’s my excuse for not posting anything here since early December.

And here, because we could all use some cheering up and my deck garden has been performing in despite of the weather, some photos of flowers. Flowers are good.

Crocuses, 25 January.
Crocuses, 25 January. Their second spring.
A single snowdrop, 4 February. A disappointment—only one of last spring’s flowered though they all came up, and only one of the five put in in the fall survived.
A single snowdrop, 4 February. A disappointment—only one of last spring’s flowered though they all came up, and only one of the five bulbs put in this past autumn survived.
Reticulated iris, 4 February. Repeats from last spring.
Reticulated iris, 4 February. Repeats from last spring.
Wood violets, 16 March. Another disappointment: they're clearly labelled Viola odorata but possess no fragrance whatever.
Wood violets, 16 March. Another disappointment: they’re clearly labelled Viola odorata yet possess no fragrance whatever. But pretty.
Iceland poppy (rather storm tossed), 16 March. I sowed the seeds last spring but nothing ever came up, saddening me. Then, when I was cleaning out that box in the fall I discovered two sprouts and decided to see if they’d make it through the winter. As you see, they did.
Iceland poppy (rather storm tossed), 16 March. I sowed the seeds last spring but nothing ever came up, saddening me. Then, when I was cleaning out that box in the autumn I discovered two sprouts and decided to see if they’d make it through the winter. As you see, they did.
Second Iceland poppy, newly opened and in context, 16 March.
Second Iceland poppy, newly opened and in context, 16 March. Reticulated iris in foreground, slowly opening anemone to the right.
Close-up of the poppy, 16 March.
Close-up of lemon-yellow poppy, 16 March. Presently there are five buds to look forward to.
Rosemary, 16 March. Of all the many rosemaries I've owned over the years, the first to flower for me.
Rosemary, 16 March. Of all the many rosemaries I’ve owned over the years, the first to flower for me.
Pucshkinia, 27 March. I thought they’d be taller. (I also never thought all the clarkia seed sowed in the fall would be up so far so early.)
Pucshkinia, 27 March. I thought they’d be taller. (I also never thought all the clarkia seed sowed in the fall would be up so far so early.)
Stocks, 27 March. Survivors from last summer.
Stocks, 27 March. Survivors from last summer.
First anenome, 27 March. A bit past its prime. Two more on the way, one apparently the same blue.
First anenome, 27 March. A bit past its prime. Two more on the way, one apparently the same blue.
Tulip magnolia (left) and lilac in the downbelow, 30 March. Poor things would appreciate pruning. I don't know what the purple masses in the left foreground are but they’re certainly cheerful.
Tulip magnolia (left, and a happier specimen in the neighbor’s yard beyond the fence) and lilac in the downbelow, 30 March. Poor things would benefit from pruning. I don’t know what the purple masses in the left foreground are but they’re certainly cheerful.
Flowering plum trees out the bedroom window, 31 March. Tasty plums, too.
Flowering plum trees out the bedroom window, 31 March. Tasty plums, too.
Primrose and I don’t know what, 31 March. The primrose survives from winter before last when I had multiple specimens potted in the living foom to alleviate the gloom. The other thing I first believed another puschkinia, although I didn’t recall planting any in that box, but on closer inspection, no. Perhaps a triffid.
Primrose and I don’t know what, 31 March. The primrose survives from winter before last when I had multiple specimens potted in the living room to alleviate the gloom. The other thing I first believed another puschkinia, although I didn’t recall planting any in that box, but on closer inspection, no. Perhaps a triffidling.

** [That fourth 2015 story meant to be completed by New Year’s? Ha ha, no, alas. I was allowed a generous deadline extension but even so. Stupid narrative chose to become complicated and to address issues far outside the brief. Perhaps I’ll finish it one day, perhaps not, but in any case it won’t appear in the intended anthology.]


fantasy fiction novelette

story news

I have not been talking about writing much but the fact is I’m doing it. Some. Now and again. And even finishing things…infrequently.

Which is to say, so far this year three stories, two longish and one shortish. And a fourth I mean to complete before the New Year’s Eve submission deadline (get cracking, Jeffers!). I won’t say anything yet about #1 or #3 because they’re out on submission and jinx.

But #2 I can talk about because it just sold and will appear, Kindly Editor tells me, probably in the spring of next year.

As a dreamy, bookish, introverted, somewhat alienated sprog in the early 1970s I naturally fell under the spell of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. (I’ll give you a moment to snigger about the series title. Even in those innocent days, “adult” as a descriptor for, uh, “art” had undertones of “raunchy,” if it hadn’t quite become the euphemism for “pornographic” we now recognize. One wonders how Ballantine Books’ publicity department let it pass.)

Here is the scene: the summer before I started my second year at prep school in Pebble Beach, California—a peculiar gated community consisting primarily of golf courses and scenic vistas, adjacent to the equally peculiar village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, my hometown. My elder brother had attended the same school (would later return for a long career as a teacher), my younger brother came up three years later, and my mother had just been hired as school librarian. Conveniently enough, as the family couldn’t really afford my tuition. That summer she put in several hours a day familiarizing herself with the library and cleaning up inherited messes.

She dragooned me to help out. My wage was one new paperback book a week with the promise of no complaints if I chose trash (science fiction or fantasy) as I was certain to do. Friday afternoons after a few hours of work we would drive down to what passed for Pebble Beach’s commercial district for lunch at the drugstore before spending another hour or two swimming and sunning at the Del Monte Beach Club. But between the lunching and the clubbing I had a short precious period to rifle through the drugstore’s two spinner racks of new mass-market paperbacks.

I don’t suppose more than a quarter of them were SF or fantasy. Indeed, I’m not sure how those two racks managed to provide a book I wanted every week for the entire summer. I do recall that the first Ballantine Adult Fantasy title I encountered shocked me with its price—$1.25 instead of the 75¢ or 95¢ then standard—and I worried about choosing it since it was so expensive. Apparently my mother was pleased with my work that week, though, because she made no protest. I don’t remember which book it was, which novel or collection or anthology with which gorgeous Gervasio Gallardo or David McCall Johnston or Bob Pepper cover.

At any rate, I bought a great many BAF titles during my high-school years. I wish I still had them but they—and too many other books—were lost in the First Great Book Disaster when stored for several years in the damper-than-I-knew basement of a friend’s house. Alas.

But the point of this exercise in nostalgia is to bring up California poet/short-story writer/graphic artist/sculptor Clark Ashton Smith, whose fiction I first encountered in BAF editions…and who had something of a local connection. As a poet he was a disciple of George Sterling, who lived some while in Carmel and was one of the earliest champions of my grandfather’s work. CAS himself resided the last few years of his life in Pacific Grove, on the other side of Pebble Beach from Carmel.

CAS is probably least remembered of the great Weird Tales triumvirate of the 1920s and ’30s, after Conan the Barbarian’s creator Robert E. Howard and well after dread Cthulhu’s daddy, H.P. Lovecraft. When he is remembered it’s as the prose stylist of the trio…a judgment I’m no longer quite willing to accept. He had a distinctive style, surely (all three did), but it’s a good deal too empurpled, too incarnadined, too penny-a-sesquipedalian-word for my present taste. Teenage Alex, though, fell hard under the spell of his tales of necromancy and lurking unease set in the bejewelled tapestries of mediaeval Averoigne, prehistoric Hyperborea, postdiluvian Poseidonis (last fragment of sunken Atlantis), and, especially, in Zothique.

Zothique, in the CAS legendarium, is all that remains of the continents of Earth millennia hence as the planet and its sun near extinction. It’s a place of dusty deserts and ancient ruined cities, curses and bloodthirsty gods and necromancers—so many necromancers. It’s the direct antecedent of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth—Vance admitted as much—which I would discover a few years later, and hence of an entire subgenre of fantastical literature. Thank all Zothique’s dread, rabid gods, however, that said subgenre follows Vance more closely than CAS. The latter had a vivid, lurid imagination and a distressingly large vocabulary but his plots are primitive and his characters less than types, seldom criticisms that can be made of Vance.

That said, “The Garden of Sons and Husbands,” my own first (possibly only ever?) addition to the Dying Earth subgenre, is intended in part as homage to CAS and to the Ballantine Adult Fantasy edition of his Zothique stories with the deliciously creepy George Barr cover that so enthralled teenage Alex.

I came up with the novelette’s title some years ago back in Rhode Island (August 2009, to be precise) and drafted about half the first, long paragraph before setting it aside. But the title was too good to lose and in July of this year I wrote all the other paragraphs. A good many of them. Just under eleven thousand words’ worth. Sufficient that I will claim “The Garden of Sons and Husbands” as the first story written in Oregon, in distinction to the first story completed (#1 above, which I’m not really talking about), two months before but already two-thirds drafted before I crossed the continent. (Every word of #3 was written right here in Eugene. Also not talking about.)

And yay, the third market I submitted “The Garden” took it, that being the intriguing webzine dedicated to long stories of science fiction and fantasy This will be my third appearance, after “Tattooed Love Boys” in March 2012 and “A Man Not of Canaan” in July 2013. The first two sold to founding editor/publisher Ann Leckie before anybody knew who she was. Now that she’s deservedly famous (the Ancillary trilogy is so fine), GigaNotoSaurus is edited by Rashida J. Smith—who will doubtless become famous herself soon enough—and I am delighted to sell to the new management.


I will post a link when “The Garden of Sons and Husbands” goes live next year.

fantasy fiction football (soccer) historical fantasy Lethe Press novelette novella Rahab SF short stories spec fic

book news

Long ago at the beginning of time—in 1976, that is—the first piece of fiction I was ever paid money for appeared in print. If I remember correctly, that story paid for my first electric typewriter. I’d written it longhand in a prep-school spiral-bound notebook, then typed it up on a portable manual Hermès that might be worth some money now if I still had it.

Let me do the math: Sometime in 2016 I will have been a Published Author for forty years. How is that even possible?

To mark the anniversary, I thought, how about a collection of stories, new and old? Not quite as old as forty years—I reread some of that apprentice work from the 1970s and ’80s. I don’t hate it (much) but don’t feel like preserving it either. Let future scholars and heirs do that after I’m dead. So the initial date I chose is 1990, the year I acquired my first computer (an Apple Macintosh SE of blessèd memory) and determined once for all the name I wished to be known under.

I brought the notion to Gentle Publisher, who agreed with good grace (although he nixed my proposed cover in no uncertain terms) and surprised me utterly by saying, “I’ll find somebody interesting to write an introduction.” I am as curious as you are who that will be!

At any rate, barring unforeseen mischance, out in July 2016 from Lethe Press will be a massive tome entitled Not Here. Not Now. collecting thirteen stories and novellas from a quarter century’s work in (and out of) multiple genres.

table of contents

  • “Composition with Barbarian and Animal” [written 1992/published 1994]
    Science fiction, a tale of barbarian merchants in the strange worlds of the far future.
  • “You Deserve” [2013/2013]
    Contemporary dark fantasy about a teenager and his dads, dreadful impulses and dreadful powers.
  • “Michael in the Library” [1991/1998]
    Quasi-historical fiction set in Roman Alexandria, concerning a scribe at the famous library and his lover, a novelist.
  • “Seb and Duncan and the Sirens” [2010-2012/2014]
    Contemporary fantasy: American tourists. Greek island. Sirens.
  • “A Handbook for the Castaway” [1996/1997]
    Quasi-historical fiction, the shipwreck narrative of an eighteenth-century pirate.
  • “A Portrait in India Ink by Harry Clarke” [2013/2013]
    Semi-historical* romance revolving around an Irish artist’s gorgeous illustration for a minor Poe story.
    *(do the 1960s count as history?)
  • “Dramma per musica; or, The Frenzy of Alexander” [1995/previously unpublished in full]
    Faux-autobiographical fiction containing, as in a matryoshka, a narrative of Baroque-opera castrato erotica.
  • “Three Men I Want” [1995/1997]
    A non-fiction short story, deceptively autobiographical, ambiguously confessional.
  • “The Hyena’s Blessing” [2012/2013]
    Quasi-historical fantasy set in eleventh-century Egypt, involving an assassin, a caliph, and, well, zombies.
  • “Captain of the World” [2010/2011]
    Contemporary sports fiction. No, really. Narrated by a Turkish-American soccer goalkeeper.
  • “#duranperi” [2013/previously unpublished]
    Contemporary fantasy, a kind of fairy tale taking place at the edges of the Gezi Park protests in İstanbul during the summer of 2013.
  • “Two Dead Men” [2012/2012]
    Secondary-world fantasy, a supernatural love story set during and ten years after a vicious civil war.
  • “The New People” [2008-2009/2011]
    Science fiction, an exploration of the society evolved on an isolated colony world three hundred years after all the women died. And a love story. And a fan letter to Israeli singer-songwriter Ivri Lider.

cats self

farewell, lovely


RIP Miss Charlotte Brontë, July 2001 – November 2015.


Her resting place in my sister’s rose garden, Roseburg, Oregon.


Under this rose I acquired in the spring but never got into the ground—Milwaukee’s Calatrava.

cats fiction Lethe Press Oregon short stories spec fic


Happy Revolt-Against-Your-Rightful-Monarch Day or whatever you call it.

I have not had much to say these weeks, what with Misses Charlotte and Jane not venturing into the terrifying outdoor world for a while, thankfully. A little earthquake this morning, first I’ve noticed since returning to the west coast although not the first to occur: the refrigerator shuddered, the leaves of the dracaena atop it trembled, and the building groaned. But nothing fell or broke. Also the area is enduring successive heatwaves with afternoon highs well above 90°F. Something I am finding novel about Oregon summers is that, however hot the days, the nights are cool, dropping thirty or forty degrees Fahrenheit between sunset and dawn. (I see too many dawns these days: also novel, and upsetting.) During New England heatwaves I sweated all night long, I well remember. The cats are not best pleased by the heat, languishing in decorative attitudes on the wood floors—I tell them to retreat to the foyer on the ground floor, routinely twenty degrees cooler than upstairs if unwelcoming otherwise, but they don’t listen—and my deck garden finds it stressful. This box of godetia and cosmos is pretty, though.

The makeshift trellis supports sweat peas, not yet tall enough to be visible let alone to bloom. (There’s [invisible] scarlet flax in there as well.) The tall and blooming sweat peas in a different box are lovely and very fragrant.

Writing news? Publication news? Not much, alas. There’s a Top Secret Project possibly in train but I dassn’t say anything in public until a contract is signed. And there’s this, contributor’s copy received a few days ago:

Huh. That title is not entirely legible on the laminated hardcover. Careless designer. ::slaps own wrist::


I will note that this reprint is the author’s cut, so to speak, of “Shep: A Dog,” restoring some bits of characterization and plot-and-theme-wrapping-up the original editors chose to dispense with, and it can be read only in Best Gay Stories 2015.

If you were unaware, the publisher of the Best Gay Stories annual series* and all but one of my currently available books, Lethe Press, handsomely revamped its website a while ago. I could wish for an author index, but one truly welcome addition is a shopping cart. Yes, you may now purchase Lethe books direct and personally, immediately, help improve the press’s bottom line. (And mine. Not so immediately.) You might type sale into the search box: I expect you’ll find a Jeffers title or two at a scandalously low price.

*As well as the Wilde Stories annual, collecting a year’s worth of fine speculative fiction populated by gay men and other fantastic creatures. The 2015 edition, coming soon, will include my novelette of the Kandadal’s World “The Oily Man.”

cats self

jane’s adventures

Envious, no doubt, of Miss Charlotte Brontë’s harrowing ordeal as reported in the previous post, Miss Jane Austen did her own thing last night. With my unwitting, careless, stupid aid. That is, I came in from a cigarette or something, washed a few dishes, then noticed Charlotte nosing at the deck door. Which moved. Even from the kitchen I could see it move. Good god, Jeffers, hadn’t you learned your lesson?

So I hurried over to latch it securely. Then noticed Jane wasn’t immediately visible. She tends not to hide as often or effectively as Charlotte. I did a fast reconnoiter of the apartment and down the dark stairs to the bathroom and front door. No sign of the irritating cat. I ventured onto the deck with the not-so-trustworthy flashlight, closing the door securely behind me.

The deck faces east. Beyond the railing on the south side, toward the property’s main house, there’s a stretch of corrugated fiberglass below where the roof over the kitchen slopes down (see photo). Brazen as you please, Jane stood there, looking over her shoulder at her outraged, worried human. I asked her to come to me. Insouciant, she declined: went to investigate the foot-high, foot-deep crevice under the eave. She spent some five minutes poking and sniffing and ignoring me.


I sat down, still making polite requests that she give over being an intrepid explorer. Eventually, Jane made a move toward me. She came through the rail onto the deck. Slowly, carefully, I stood, saying something to the effect of “Jane, oh, Jane, you don’t really want to be out here at midnight, wouldn’t you like to come back inside with me?” Naturally, she wouldn’t. I must have moved too quickly because she darted past me and through the railing on the north side, onto the slope of the roof over the bedroom.

Damned cat. She skittered about a bit up there before becoming fascinated by a disused chimney that I don’t know what it was ever meant to vent. She climbed it! And sat up there another ten minutes.


I told her she was wicked. I told her she was not doing my poor heart any favors. I told her I couldn’t handle this kind of shenanigans twice in a week and a half. I told her Charlotte wasn’t actually my favorite, that I loved the two of them equally, and I would be desolate if she didn’t come inside RIGHT NOW.

I looked away. When I trained the flashlight on the chimney again she was gone. A moment later, I heard a thump behind me on the corrugated bit: she’d gone up the roof and around the living room’s big gable, come down on the south side again. I rushed to that railing, calling frantically.

Fruitlessly. Jane gave me a jaundiced eye over her shoulder, then neatly leapt onto the roof of the main house. “Jane!” I called.


The brave adventuress turned her thoughts east, stalking the length of that roof, then south over the peak and out of sight. My heart was going ka-thunk. I needed a cigarette.

She did not reappear for a good long while (probably not as long as it felt to me). Every now and again I’d scan the flashlight over the other house’s empty roof. I talked to her, repeating nearly verbatim entreaties made to missing Charlotte far too recently.

I heard a thump, uncomfortably distant, as of cat feet hitting a hollow surface from some height. From where I stood I could just see a little patch of flat roof over the carport south of my kitchen window. “Jane,” I called, “where are you, what are you doing?”

Like an actress, she moved into the wavering spotlight and glared at me from the carport roof, her eyes making laser beams. “Jane,” I said, “I can’t get to you over there. Won’t you come home?”

Again she turned away.

“Jane,” I said, despairing, “you’re giving me palpitations and I can’t deal any longer. I hope you have the sense not to follow Charlotte’s example and try to get down to ground level but there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m going to fetch some food and water to put out here for you, then go back inside to cuddle Charlotte and weep.”

Water first. I set the bowl down where she could find it, then cast a hopeless glance over the corrugated bit.

Jane stalked casually around the corner.

I said nothing.

She approached. “There’s water right there if you’re thirsty,” I said.

She slipped through the railing, back onto the deck half a yard from me. Furious, I made a grab.

I was going for the scruff of her neck but the stupid animal wouldn’t keep still and what I got was the base of her tail. Oh, did that make her angry! Fearful for my skin’s integrity, I somehow got her scruff with the other hand as she spat and yowled and hissed and flailed with her monstrous claws.

And then the wailing banshee was inside again where she belongs, enraged and (I suppose) terrified. When I dropped her to my mother’s spectacular Persian tree-of-life rug, she couldn’t get away fast enough—dashed down the stairs into the dark, yelling to raise all the devils in hell.

Today she’s fine. Horrid animal.