Sparkie, Dying

This is the conclusion of Sparkie, Living and Dying.  Maybe it isn’t good for me to dwell on that loss right now, since I am about to absorb a catastrophic loss but here I go.  The references to Sparkie as a Jewish mom is a figure of speech and is not intended to offend anyone of any creed but a way to give a personality to an animal that, above all others, I still grieve. 

The morning has worn on and Sparkie is in the hall asleep.  Sparkie the cat is in her last days.  She’s diabetic and all feline diabetes is partly autoimmune.  That means that she not only had autoantibodies attacking her pancreatic beta cells but also her liver.  She has the liver of a late stage alcoholic, thanks to her diabetes.  A third problem is that this kind of liver disease attacks the visual part of her brain, and she can hardly see anything.  Sparkie’s bright green eyes have grown dim and feeble and when she walks down the hall she hits her head on the wall.

I’ve lost so many people.  Lost so many cats.  Sparkie is like my own human daughter.  My insides feel pulled out and hacked at.  This morning she is asleep in the hall.  The hall is dark as hell’s cellar even in the daytime.  When she wakes up and doesn’t know where she is she has a fit and when i call and she hears me she calms down.  I am tired and pick her up and put her on the king sized bed close to me.  The bedroom has more light and she can see me.

I lay my head down and get drowsy.  I get panicky and think if I go to sleep she will too and will wake up dead.  When she sees me lift my head she looks at me alertly as if to say, What, Daddy?  I know I’m being stupid and lie down and in sleep I dream stupid dreams.  Sparky is sleeping peacefully when I wake an hour later she is sleeping quiertly, her lungs working normally at least for now.

It’s hard to say how I know she’s dying.  I’ve just seen so many of them die.

She sleeps and wakes and looks bad.  She’s so sick she gets more attention than any cat in the house.  I spend so much time with her I can tell how she feels just by looking at those emerald eyes that have grown old  in a mere fraction of my life.  She has lost so much weight i can actually see her heart beating in her chest.  Her ribs are so prominent she looks like a refugee from a gulag.  I have been force feeding her because when a cat gets old and stops eating they will die if you don’t.  But it isn’t working.

Sparkie would never eat pork.  Years ago when we first got her she got pissed and went on a hunger strike so I got every kind of cold cuts I could find and she started eating.  She ate all of them.  Except the pork.  She never would eat it.  I was sitting at the table eating pizza when she jumped on the table.  I offerered her some pepperoni and she refused it.

Sparkie was militant and had enemy cats in the house.  When her worst enemy got sick she sat with her and guarded her and attacked any cat that came too close.  She was vocal and bossy and pushy, like a Jewish mother out of a Woody Allen film.  She was as much like a jewish mom as she could be.

But she is dying.

When Dana comes home Sparkie sniffs and tries to find her because the light has grown dim in the room and in her eyes.  While Dana nuzzles Sparkie I go out to the hall and into the bathroom to leak.  I have barely finished when I hear Dana yelling at me.

She had a fit when she couldn’t find you, Dana says, looking at me gravely.  I pick Sparkie up and put her on my lap until she falls asleep and into a coma she will not come out of.

She may not come out of this, I say.

Maybe she was hanging on till I got here because she didn’t want to die when you were alone, Dana suggests.

Or she wanted to see you one more time, I say.

We put her in the walk in closet on a towel.

That was Friday.  She never came out of it Saturday. But she didn’t start to die until Sunday afternoon.

And right after the Falcons’ game I walk back to where she is lying on the bed, unconscious.  I give Sparkie fluids, which is pointless but I do it anyway.  All of a sudden she starts dying right there in the bright, dappled November sunshine.

She stiffens.  That’s a jolt from her sympathetic nervous system trying to keep her alive.  And in then in that cheerful light she stops breathing.

But her heart keeps on beating for thirty seconds and stops and she is dead.

We both stay away from each other the rest of Sunday, finding a way to grieve.  Grief is a highly personal matter.  I observe Sparkie’s life and death by not eating pork.  Since she died to this day I have not eaten pork.

After I get back what’s left of Sparkie i get a little wooden urn for her ashes.  Then I find the right store and buy a little blue Star of David and glue it on the urn and place the baggie of ashes in and seal it.

I am a nonbeliever but if I did believe I would say that if we have immortal souls why shouldn’t animals, even the lowest beast of the field?  And if we are reunited in some afterlife with humans, why not our pets?   Ecclesiasties notwithstanding I believe they would indeed have souls.  Why not?  And even if we are immortal only in the sense of being remembered by the living, Sparkie will live, deep in the hole in my heart that was ripped out when she died.  Until Dana and i are no more Sparkie will live.

Why do animals not appear to grieve as we do?  Since they are not blessed with speech and other gifts that make us “higher” organisms do they merely not need it?  Or do they remember something we have forgotten, how to live with death without bitching but with acceptance and utter humility?  Since they cannot speak they cannot tell us.  Another agonizing unanswered question for the ages.

I have instructed Dana that if I die before her that she will put what’s left of Sparkie in my coffin with me even if she has to hide it, because Sparkie’s place is with me, always.

Sparkie, i will follow you into the dark.


Best Sci Fi Writers

I’ve finally resuscitated this machine.

Anyway, here’s my arbitrary list all time best Science Fiction Writers:

1.  Isaac Asimov.  Who else?  Foundation won the all time Hugo award, beating Tolkien.  That’s too bad that Tolkien lost, because scify and fantasy/horror are two distinct genres and should not compete nor compared with each other.  I never liked Tolkien but he should’ve won in a different genre.  Still there is nobody like Asimov.

2.  Stanislaw Lem.  The only sci fi writer in the same league with Asimov is Stanislaw Lem.  If you don’t know the Polish language you’ll have to read the translation.  Where Asimov believed space travel and colonization was critical for the survival of the human race, Lem believed it was stupid and insane, since we are not evolved to exist in space.  And damn if I don’t agree.  Not because space travel is stupid but because I think the biosphere will be uninhabitable in just a few centuries and we wont have anything like interstellar travel for one to ten thousand years.  Long before that the air will be uninhabitable and the Earth too hot and we will be extinct.

3.  Greg Benford.  The greatest living scify writer, because he writes hard science fiction, the only true science fiction that deals with science and humanity, not a hybrid of science and mysticism.  You can argue about which is his best, But I like Great Sky River, Timescape, and Cosm.

4.  Greg Bear.  This writer, unlike any of the others, is truly protean.  He can write hard scify like Eternity but can write silliness like early Ron Hubbard, and even writes a horror story I cant remember the name of that is as good anything Stephen King ever wrote.

5.  Larry Niven.  Niven is a greatly underrated writer because his style is deceptively immature, probably because he lived a sheltered life.  But he knows the science inside out, and has the kind of scientific imagination that rivals Asimov’s.

6.  Michael Kube McDowell.  Another hard scify writer, best know for his trilogy The Trigon Disunity.  In particular the second book has one of the most tear jerking love stories I’ve read, and it’s based on time dilation (Special Relativity) and you need to understand that to really get this book.

7.  Arthur Clarke.  I never considered him in the top three because he has written a lot of average stuff, some that is pure crap.  His best is The Fountains of Paradise, which compares well with even Asimov.

8.  Robert Silverberg.  Silverberg understands the science, but he writes a lot of junk.  Then he turns around and writes a masterpiece, like The Man in the Maze, or the millenial story The Masks of Time. 

9.  Greg Brin.  He’s a a great writer, but undisciplined.  In The Uplift War there are so many different kinds of aliens I couldn’t finish the first chapter.  Startide Rising is a fine work.  But Brin’s best is Foundation’s Triumph.  After Asimov’s death, Bear, Benford, and Brin each wrote a Foundation sequel.  Brin’s was the best.  I think he does the best when he has to work within constraints, such as when he writes in Asimov’s universe.

10.  Ben Bova.  He’s an old guy that grew up before I did, but he shares the benevolent, humanistic values that all these writers share.  Because he does, he beat out Robert Heinlein, who has some good stories but writes like he learned the English language last week.

Best Novels

I read a lot, but I haven’t read everything.  I’m no literary critic, but I know what touches me.  And bound with sentiment here are my favorite modern novels.

1.  The Crossing by Cormac.  It’s the same story as Pretty Horses, but that was adolescent.  The Crossing is adult, powerful, brutal and very dark, written by America’s greatest living writer.

2.  Suttree by Cormac.   This one is something like Huck Finn on acid.  It’s a character study set in Knoxville in 1950.  It’s brilliant and full of the fine imagery of this writer.  Saddest and funniest of his books, it’s my personal favorite but it rambles enough that I call it second.

3.  The Sun Also Rises by Hemmingway.  If Cormac had never written a word this would be #1.  There is a description of two guys fishing and drinking wine along a stream in the mountains of Spain that is superb.  It’s not important what they’re doing; it’s the power and unity of vision and perfection of this writer’s imagery techniques.

4.  Goodbye Columbus by Philip Roth.  I know, this is me indulging myself in sentiment, but this is the best love story I’ve ever read.  The movie made of this was almost as good as the book.  Summer romances are brittle things that bloom sudden and violent but are doomed because they usually involve two people out of their element temporarily.

5.  A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway.  The one-two punch at the end is brutal and you don’t expect it.  But the book doesn’t flow as well as some other of his works.

6.  Underworld, by Don Delillo.  This writer is an acquired taste and it’s 800 pages long, but worth reading; it is a masterpiece with a recurrent theme of garbage, just stinking garbage.

7.  Barney’s Story by Mordecai Richler.  This writer’s novel St. Urbain’s Horseman, might have made it here, but this is a much better, sadder, and funnier story.

8.  The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I read this my first semester in college and since I was sixteen I guess I wasn’t old enough to get this story, but that’s my shortcoming.  Compared to Hemingway, Fitzgerald always came off as a little stiff.  So out of tokenism or whatever i’ll put this story here.

9.  1984, George Orwell.  I read this in college and then again this summer.  The story seems even better now than then.

10.  The Masks of Time, by Robert Silverberg.  Up to this point I’ve avoided science fiction/fantasy/horror and genre novels because they should be considered separately.  Asimov’s the all time best and I say that because he is consistently great where Silverberg and Arthur Clark write a lot of very average stuff.  The Masks of Time is scfi but so human it could fit in anywhere.


These are just my favorites.  You could argue all day about it, but these are mine.  And for #1 in sci fi, that’s easy.  It would be any story from the Foundation series by Asimov.

Chant Down Babylon

You cannot chant down Babylon, mon.  Not with music or anything else.  I refer of course to Bob Marley’s song.

Babylon always wins,  It’s the champ.  It will send you reeling with the damned on the plains of Gomorra.  Native son, you will live to see the city of your birth pulled down brick by brick.

Sometimes an artist transcends themselves.  I am thinking of the second movement of Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor.  If you haven’t heard this, I challenge you to listen to it without crying.  When I heard it I kept it down to wet eyes.  It is so sad and so sweet.  Don’t bother with the first and last movements; they are average, at least for Bach.

I have always thought my writing at least compares favorably with Hemingway or Fitzgerald, but probably not Cormac.  He’s the champ.  I cant do what he does, not for very long.  Besides, It’s not my strength as a writer.  Mine’s a kind of minimalism and immediacy that make characters jump off the page.  And I am humbled when I read Cormac outdoing himself.  Consider this passage from The   Crossing:

“He knew her well, this old woman of Mexico, her sons long dead in that blood and violence which her prayers and her prostrations seemed powerless to appease.  Her frail form was a constant in that land, her silent anguishings.  Beyond the church walls the night harbored a millennial dread panoplied in feathers and the scales of royal fish and if it yet fed upon the children still who could say what worse wastes of war and torment and despair the old woman’s constancy might not have stayed, what direr histories yet against which  could be counted at last nothing more than her small figure bent and mumbling, her crone’s hands clutching her beads of fruitseed.  Unmoving, austere, implacable.  Before just such a God.”

    That’s why he’s the heavyweight champion.  This kind of brilliance.

I feel the cold, stinking, sephrucral breath of poverty breathing on me.  WTF will become of me?

Damn this machine.  Since it broke down it’s been acting like a Ouija board.

Well, that’s all for tonight.  Peace and Light, everybody

Murder One

Sorting things out as to who gets what is emotionally wrenching.  What it comes down to is that I get a few thousand dollars and then get dumped into a tenement over in Scottsburg.  But since our two back up cars are nearly dead, she did agree to buy me a car that is nearly new.  Since our credit is shot idk how she’ll do it but it’s part of the settlement that has been worked out.  Since she keeps the whole 80 acres  (half of which is mine) and the house I guess since she’s getting me a new car that’s supposed to make her feel less guilty. But this arrangement was pure sodomy.  This enterprise was her doing, not mine.  As the man said, Doomed enterprises divide lives forever into the then and the now.

I wonder what it’ll be like when I wake up and for a moment don’t know where I am.  Then i’ll get the screaming horrors and have to take Xanax and go back to bed.  I have to make sure I’ve got plenty.  I’m on about six medications now, like an old woman.  I wont be able to afford basic cable but l have to have internet access.  That’s my lifeline to the world.  I’ll have to eat like some acetic monk.  Canned fruit and fibars, I guess.

This computer acts like it’s possessed.  The guy that worked on it did a great job just getting it running.  I’ll have to get a new one out of the pittance i’ll get paid.   Since I’ve been unable to download my stories from Xanga, it may just be that I need a new computer.  And I wonder about getting a MacBook since I never used that technology.t way.

My ex believes I get sick in order to control her.  That’s bullshit, which means she’s been listening to the wrong people.  When I asked her if my hospital stay was an example she said yes, in a roundabout way.  I pointed out that I would have to have a vial of Staph, would have find a way to get it into my urethra and make sure it got into the kidneys and into the bloodstream.  And no, just swallowing Staph wouldn’t work since stomach acids destroy the bug.  You cant talk to her since she cant listen.  She interrupts every twenty seconds.

I cant believe what I’m arguing about with this crazy woman. I asked myself if there was any way I could avoid being out on the streets in a few months or ending up in a Psych ward the answer was no. Just one way. Find a gf. If only somebody to talk to and who cares whether I live or die.  There are women all over the place but most of them are pigs and I don’t mean they’re overweight. I mean they’re low class and nasty, like the one that reached into her sweatpants and scratched her ass right in the dollar store in front of us. I don’t fit in this place but I doubt I’d fit in New York or anywhere else. Besides, some women find rebound behavior insulting. And I don’t see that I have anything left to offer anybody, and I am still in a rage over how I’ve been treated.

I haven’t said what I wanted to say. All I’ve done is bitch. I meant to convey the horror, the chill of joining the people who are a few paychecks away from being on the street. And I just cant see this ending any way but one.

To kill someone you don’t have to shoot them. Just force them into a situation they cant get out of and that you know they wont survive.

And that’s Murder One.

I’m Back?

Okay.  My computer works again, for now.  Soon as I get my money I’m trading it in for a MacBook.  But I’m okay for now.  I’ll be glad to hear from any of you.