A Third Printing, & Something Wicked in the Backyard

It has been an odd weekend, here in Highland, IN. Friday, at a red light on my way home, I got a text from my editor, saying that the Reincarnation Blues paperback is going into a third printing.

That’s fun! My dad has said, a time or two, that if it was his book, he would want to go see it actually running off the presses, getting chopped into pages and glued between covers. As I understand it, this happens in a huge facility out in the New York countryside, somewhere. At any rate, it was fun to come home and tell Janine and Jianna about this. It also makes a great excuse for hitting a shot or two of Cinnamon fire whiskey stuff. You know the stuff I mean.

Okay, that was fun. I was up early the next morning (6:00) to spend several hours at Sip2, working on the Ahab book. Then home to do some household stuff, blah blah. Later, after dark, I was installed in my Big Blue Chair, petting the dog and staring into space, when Janine and Jianna came home from dropping off Jianna’s friend, and they had unsettling news.

“There’s something big and furry in the backyard,” they said. “It’s just sitting there, not moving, between the two graves.”

Our cat, Simone, and dog, Jake, are buried in the yard, back by the trees, with cool flags for markers.

We theorized. It might be a racoon. Or a skunk, but it was too big. It could be a dog. Why wasn’t it moving?

I got my flashlight.

“Go sacrifice yourself for us,” commanded Jianna (she’s almost 14, and has a gallows sense of humor worthy of a plague survivor).

No one followed me out. Whatever it was was too big, and too furry.

I shined the flashlight, and sure enough, there it was. The wind picked up at that exact movement, and it hissed (hissed!) toward me.

A big, gray plastic bag from Strack’s.

I shared this news with Janine and Jianna, who sternly emerged from the house to see that the beast was properly recycled.

In 7 years of living in Highland, I’ve only seen a few wild animals of note. There used to be trash-raiding racoons, but a sprinkling of processed coyote urine took care of that. Sometimes a ‘possum used to visit, but she’s moved on or met some kind of fate.

My neighbor Charlie has a chicken coop. Sometimes it attracts foxes. Skinny, malnourished, suburban foxes. But that’s about it.

I’m hopeful, though. Lately, there have been snakes. Garter snakes and black rat snakes…no Copperheads or timber rattlers, yet. But I’m hopeful. I’ll keep you posted.

Meantime, I’m sadly aware that we don’t live at the edge of a mighty forest; we live down the street from every fast food lair you can name. Ridge Avenue is a fierce wilderness of McDonaldsWendysWhiteCastleKFCPopeye’sCulversArby’sTacoBell and more.


I’m on plastic bag patrol, flashlight and coyote urine in hand, windswept and vigilant.

Moonlight and low clouds.

A crawling sort of sound from the edge of the driveway…

Soft drink lid on the hunt.




Pet Ghosts

I wish my dog Jake would come and haunt me.

Things like that happen, I hear. Stories about people who lose a pet they love, and then late at night they feel the bed jump a little, and paws walking up the mattress. A familiar shape, fleeting, at the corner of the eye. Shoes in the closet, mysteriously chewed.

If Jake, my 110-pound Lab mix, were to come back, it would probably be my neighbor Charlie’s lookout, mostly.

“You know,” he’d say, “with Jake gone, you’d think there’d be less poop in the yard.” (There’s kind of a wide open yard space between our houses, and Jake never much cared whether he was pooping in his own yard or Charlie’s. I tried to keep up with this, bucket and shovel in hand, but was not always successful). And I’d say, “Huh. That’s mysterious, isn’t it?”

Maybe I’d start seeing a huge, mysterious shadow figure at night, over by Charlie’s pool, hunched over…you get the idea.

I’m finding, though, that I don’t need an actual ghost to show up in order for me to feel haunted.

I feel haunted when I come home, and I don’t hear Jake’s tags jingling as he trots to meet me.

I feel haunted when I take a piece of food off my plate and try to hand it off under the table, and no one is there.

I feel haunted when I find dog hair, which I’m always finding, because he was that kind of dog. We cleaned the fridge recently, and found dog hair. What the hell?

I feel haunted when no one sticks his wet nose in my face, asking to go out just 20 minutes before the alarm goes off, on a workday.

We lost a cat this summer, too…Simone. Also an old dude. He haunts me when he doesn’t race me to the bedroom, leap onto the bed, and stare at me until I pet him. He haunts me when I don’t hear his awful, anguished cry at mealtimes (God, he had a terrible singing voice…)

For a house with only one animal left (tiny, skittish, purring Koshi), it still feels pretty crowded.

A Blog Post About the Afterlife

Okay, so I wrote this book, Reincarnation Blues, about the afterlife.

Oddly, you’re probably supposed to know a thing or two about something, if you’re going to write a book about it, and I don’t remember ever being to the afterlife. I don’t particularly believe in  an afterlife, either, most days. I’m a huge fan of science and evidence, and science and evidence say there’s no reason to believe in an afterlife. Fine.

As far as the book goes, that’s really no huge deal. It’s fiction. Says so, right there on the cover. And of course it’s not really about the afterlife anyway; it’s supposed to be a comic tapestry about the wild lives and wonders happening around us all the time. It’s supposed to make you value your life and the lives of others a little bit more. If it doesn’t do that, hopefully it makes you laugh. It’s not supposed to reveal what actually happens after we die. I do not have that information.

An afterlife isn’t something we know about. It’s something we want, I think. But there are two great risks involved. One: we abandon our reason, drawing conclusions without evidence, and Two: we start to get kind of silly, with harps and robes and streets of gold. Which make fine fiction, but if you believe that shit for real, you’re basically a grownup waiting for the Easter Bunny.

It’s different for animals, though. Seriously. When it comes to animals in the afterlife, forget science. Science who? If it FEELS true, it IS true. How do I know? Here’s how: eighteen years ago, I had a dog named China, and we were best friends. She would sit next to me on the couch, like a person. I mean, sitting up, facing forward. It was so damn cute. And she made noises like a pig. Anyway, something awful happened. As she grew older, she became dog-aggressive, and had to be put down. It was awful, but what if she had kicked it up a notch and damaged someone’s kid? Well anyway, the whole day before I had to take her to the vet, I kept visualizing her running in a green field with a bunch of other dogs. I even chanted it: “China will be running in green fields, China will be –” blah, blah.

After, I went to get a video at the library, and BAM! The second I walk into the video section, right in my face there’s this video with a picture on the cover, depicting a dog that looked JUST LIKE CHINA — no shit! — running in a green field.

So there’s that. And then this last week, I lost my dog Jake. He was old and in pain, and I had him put down (you are thinking sympathetic thoughts. Thank you. Seriously.) peacefully and painlessly. And I haven’t seen any pictures of him on videos or anything, but I know, I know Jake’s in dog heaven. You know how I know? Because I want him to be there, that’s how.  That’s all the more reason we have for thinking anyone is in heaven. When it comes to animals, that’s enough.

(rambling, rambling…)

I have decided to write more about this tomorrow. Tomorrow: Pet ghosts!



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