Friday, December 28, 2012

Where is my Mother in Heaven?

I can see a boy or a girl growing up without a mother. I'm sure it happens all the time. I'm not sure how often it happens that there's no woman who could be considered a surrogate mother in a child's life, but I'm pretty sure it's happened before, many times. A father takes over and rears a child or children. Mother is out of the picture entirely. That happens. I'm sure of that. Eventually in such cases I would guess that the child, boy or girl, begins asking, because of the circumstances they see all around them with other children having mothers or substitute mothers like grandmothers or whatnot, what happened to their mother. Did she die? Was there a divorce? Did she leave them? What? Why isn't she around?

That brings me to the subject of religion, specifically the religion I adhere to: Mormonism, or more properly The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I have reached that point in my spiritual rearing that I want the answer to my question: where is my mother in heaven? I'm going to ask the question now and keep asking. There's no doubt in Mormon theology that there is a mother in heaven. This isn't about that question. That's been answered for Mormons. Whereas other religions may not believe that there is a mother in heaven or posit the possibility of there being a mother in heaven, there is no question in Mormonism that there is a mother in heaven who is married to a father in heaven. Plenty of other Mormon scholars and administrators, including Mormon prophets, seers and revelators, have made that clear.

Nobody in Mormonism seems to be asking that question. Why? Because it's probably taboo. Why? Just because. There really is no explanation as to why that is so. Just because. Just because does not cut it for me any longer. I'm going to ask. Do what is right, let the consequences follow.

On the internet site there is a faq that asks the question "Why don't women hold the priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?" I believe a journalist in a national television telecast asked him that question. The Mormon intranet site has the additional question, "How do Mormon women lead in the Church?" It quotes then President of the church, Gordon B. Hinckley,

Women do not hold the priesthood because the Lord has put it that way. It is part of His program. Women have a very prominent place in this Church. They have their own organization. It was started in eighteen forty-two by the Prophet Joseph Smith, called the Relief Society, because it's initial purpose was to administer help to those in need. It has grown to be, I think, the largest women's organization in the world… They have their own offices, their own presidency, their own board. That reaches down to the smallest unit of the Church everywhere in the world…
The men hold the priesthood, yes. But my wife is my companion. In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are co-equals in this life in a great enterprise.

If God has a wife, which Mormonism teaches He does, isn't it logical to conclude, as Gordon B Hinckley said of his companion, his wife, that God does not walk ahead of His wife but at Her side, as co-equals? So in all of the religion where is She? That is my project.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Low-lying branches over the sidewalk

Haven't talked about Asia for a few days. The dog, not the continent.

Haven't talked about anything for a few days, Asia, the continent, dog, or otherwise.

Walking. That's what we do, Asia and I, and here I'm talking about the dog. She is rather insistent, quite a bitch --- that's what you call female dogs --- and it's probably a good thing, or I wouldn't get much exercise, not that the strolls I do with her around the neighborhood are likely that beneficial to my health. They seem to keep Asia's spirits up, however, and perhaps they aid in my attitude and demeanor somewhat. But measurements of what might or might not be helpful to me are subjective and relative. On the other hand, I think the statistics indicate that some walking, even if it's in the classification of lumbering, is better than none at all.

Anyway, we do walk, or lumber, and even some of it is uphill. And a lot of the time we stop while Asia sniffs, pees, poops, or eats grass. Oh, and the other day --- well, just yesterday, Wednesday --- she saw three does walking across the road right in front of us. One was pretty big and the other two were smaller, younger, I guess. I wouldn't have noticed them at all if she'd remained quiet because I had my Kindle with me and was reading the book for our reading group, but Asia barked, forcefully and succinctly, twice, and tugged vigorously on the harness so that I looked up.

It, the walking or lumbering, not the deer viewing, helps me slumber better, maybe. I think it does. Well, maybe seeing the deer helps some.

We had a big snowstorm the other day.

It left the tree branches laden with the heavy snow of the first storm of the season. Now I don't really care if the branches are laden with the heavy snow, other than the fact that it breaks a few of the neighborhood tree branches, and that creates some work for some of my neighbors and causes them consternation and work.

What does end up irking me are the branches that hang over the sidewalk so low you can't get under them. If you proceed and try to slink under them, you're liable to get dumped on by a big load of snow if you touch any of the branches whatsoever. It can be like an avalanche. Why can't people just cut off the tree branches at a reasonable height above the sidewalk so that we can walk easily down the way? Lumbering. With their dogs. Of course, there will always be those who don't get their sidewalks shoveled, too, but the low-lying branches above the sidewalks are very irksome.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

There's a Test?

It's tempting to say I read THE PSYCHOPATH TEST: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE MADNESS INDUSTRY because it's the political season --- It's mid-October 2012 --- and the election is in a few weeks. There's Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, and whatnot. Or maybe because Halloween is just around the corner is the reason. Or because I've got somebody in my neighborhood in mind to evaluate. Or, actually, several.

None of that's true, however. I read this because the author, Jon Ronson, was on NPR --- Was it Diane Rehm or Radio West with Doug Fabrizio? I don't know. He was engaging. Is so engaging. So I bought my Kindle version of the book and read a lot of it while walking our greyhound around the neighborhood.

I know, I know, I risk others evaluating me as a psychopath in doing that, especially as I scoop up after the dog's leavings with plastic bags while I'm messing with my Kindle. And anyway the neighbors who see me don't have the checklist they need to evaluate me properly. So they probably do think I am a psychopath, but it's another disorder I have altogether. For they probably haven't read the book and don't have the knowledge that's in it. I now have and possess "the list" to administer the psychopath test. :-).

This book, however, makes it plain that "the list" is not all you need. In fact, it makes very clear how very addictive labeling people is. We do it, but we don't necessarily do it well. I recommend you read this book, especially if you're interested in the topic. As I mentioned before, the author is very engaging. You'll follow Mr. Ronson around continents ferreting out prospects to complete his research. Convicted murderers, psychiatrists, history buffs, etc. You won't be disappointed in the narrative. "'As a group they tend to be more charming than most people,'" says Martha Stout, from the Harvard Medical School.

Not that I should know.

In the Swirl

With the name Eddy, perhaps you can imagine why I got interested in being adrift. You know, swirling around, unanchored, etc.

Anyway, I read BOYS ADRIFT recently, after my brother-in-law finished it. He seemed to like it, thought it had direct application.

My boys are grown up and men now. That doesn't necessarily mean they're totally moored, but it does mean the responsibility, even any deleterious consequences to themselves and others therefrom if they're not, has more or less shifted entirely to them. Nonetheless, my interest in boys doing well hasn't completely waned. Furthermore, I'm not above fussing over what I might have done better myself, even though it's too late.

I come to reviewing Sax's book late in the game. There are numerous comprehensive and valuable reviews out there. I won't add anything by being effusive. I will say this. The dynamic, the environment, the context in which children are raised today is much different than it was when I raised our four children, three of which were adopted, two of which were boys. BOYS ADRIFT deals with this new environment that differs significantly from the era they grew up in. From what I can tell, the book does a fairly good job. I enjoyed reading it and contemplating its suggestions and assertions.

If I were to make a recommendation, I would suggest that anyone reading this book read one in counterpoint to this one. One thing that seemed to escape me in my reading was a recognition in its narration that all characteristics of humanity, including those of boys, exist on a continuum. The fixes articulated won't work for everyone.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Recycling Plastic Bags

I haven't written anything about Asia lately.

It's not like she's gone anywhere — the dog, that is, not the continent. Or that we haven't every day been taking walks as usual, mornings and afternoons. We have to go earlier in the afternoon now because the sun is going down shortly after we eat supper. Of course, it also gets light later and later, but we always left so late that hasn't become a problem.

We went out this morning, and I don't remember any of the particulars except that I was reading THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES because that's the book for book club this month.

I take my Kindle, attaching earphones to it, then listening to it read to me as we walk along. I have it read to me as fast as it can. I can get some serious reading done that I wouldn't otherwise get done doing so.

It can be logistically a little more difficult. If interruptions come up — Asia is engaged by another dog, a cat, a teasing magpie or I run into someone who wants to talk — I simply pause the Kindle from its recitation of the text. If Asia dumps a load I pause the Kindle, disconnect it from the earphones, which I leave in my ears, and set the Kindle on the ground. I reach in my pocket, take out a plastic bag and use it to pick up the dump, take out another plastic bag and put the first inside to make carrying the first plastic bag with the load more palatable. Note that I said more palatable, not palatable. I guess I shouldn't use palatable at all. Anyway.

This evening we went a little bit earlier because I had a later agenda: watch the vice presidential debate. We went left, not right, out of the house, down past the Shepards (I'm not sure if that's correct spelling), around the bend, down past Thurstons, right at the corner where the Nelsons live, and down the way until the first cul-de-sac. We usually pass right by the cul-de-sac, but today Asia was quite insistent we turn up and walk through it. I was passive, since I was engaged in events happening on the moor in my book. On the way out of the cul-de-sac, we had to stop and talk to the Willies (again, spelling?), Scott, in particular. He's adding a doorway and stairs down to his basement to accommodate an apartment down there, to supplement their income. Things have become tight for them, he says. He made a remark about my pension from the government.

Further along, we ran into one of our typical stops, especially in good weather: the Wilsons. Mike and Judith were sitting, as usual, in front of the garage, but tonight Clyde Robbins was sitting there with them. They told me they had all been enjoying the week in Southern Utah, at Lake Powell.

Judith asked if I was going to watch the debates. I asked her what debates, joking. I said I like to watch the debates, but I like to watch the commentaries on the debates better.

Asia got tired of the discussion and pulled me on.

Before we knew it we were back home. Asia hadn't made a dump, and I hadn't had to use any plastic bags.

I'm not sure what my mother would think about the sacrifices I make, or rather, what my mothers would think.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


So tonight we were almost home and this lady who jogs in the evening around the neighborhood with her husband riding bike by her side came right over to Asia to give the greyhound some attention and to get some.

That never happens to me. In my entire lifetime, I don't think it's ever happened.

It probably never happens to that guy on the bike either.

But it happens to Asia. Often. Not just with women, but with men, teenagers, children, and even toddlers. Even other dogs seem to like her. I've seen cats stop and stare, like they couldn't get their eyes full of her, mesmerized. The dog has that kind of charisma.

Is there any wonder why I am writing about her? I need to study her and glean from her some charm.

However, I'll never look as good, as lean, as sleek as she does. That isn't going to happen.

The feminine mystique. She has it.

I'm guessing my mother in heaven does too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Race When You're Older Changes

Asia was bred to race. She was bred in Colorado and raced at the track in Denver. After her handlers culled her from their racing inventory, she was rescued — culled inventory is killed — and eventually delivered to Utah. By that time, my wife had made application with a local facilitator to adopt a greyhound. The facilitator inspected our home and interviewed us to ascertain our worthiness. Apparently, we passed muster, and Asia — of course, that wasn't her name back then — was placed with us. My wife was immediately enamored and continues to be to this day. The others of us came along. Asia is now an important member of our household.

In her younger years, Asia had more energy than she does now. In the fenced yard out back of our house, she would race a particular track back and forth as fast as she could go. Scary fast. Sometimes I cringed watching her. At times I even worried that she would injure herself, but she didn't. She hasn't, not by doing that, at least.

That particular track of Asia's isn't as distinctive now as it once was. She doesn't use it as regularly or as rigorously now. I think she still does race around somewhat like that, but less crazily, with limited abandon compared with formally. Maybe she's just bounded as to what she can do now. Middle-age verging on old age or something like that. Maybe it hurts her to move now like it does me. Or possibly it's that I don't watch her as closely as I used to. Maybe she's still going breakneck and I'd be scared to death if I saw her.

A friend of mine told me he had had a greyhound as a youth. His greyhound also ran around with abandon and one day his dog reached its racing limit and then ran directly into a tree and killed itself, almost as if it had done it purposefully. I could tell it affected my friend, as course it would me if it happened to Asia.

Life moves on. Obligations one has in youth pass by the wayside as you grow older. Children grow up. Responsibility wanes. You receive pension. You have resources you didn't have earlier and the demands upon your time differ in your later years. Such dynamics give you the opportunity to contemplate what you never had time to consider with any particular mental effort before.

Where is my mother in heaven? Since I believe in a religious system that preaches that I have one — a mother in heaven — I must ask the question: Where is my mother in heaven?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On the Move Versus Stationary

Motion is an element of vision.

I'm sure that the experts in ophthalmology — Is that the field? Ophthalmology? — know all about it.

Maybe I should Wikipedia ophthalmology. Later. If I'm still interested.

Anyway, I noticed the motion-vision phenomena years ago, as a boy riding through Yellowstone with my parents, looking for black bears and grizzlies out the windows of the car. The bears were always easier to spot if they were on the move, lumbering through the woods, running full bore up the hill. I can't tell you how many bears I spotted from far off on that trip to Yellowstone only to realize they weren't bears at all, but rocks, logs, bushes or some combination of various natural flora or geography. Yet, if the bear that I thought I saw was on the move, I almost always got it right. No rocks, logs, bushes or combinations of things ended up on that list.

How does this come up? On the dog walk today, Asia saw something from afar. I did too. In fact, I think I saw it first, long before Asia did. She was dithering with the grass, sniffing or peeing or whatever.

I couldn't tell exactly what it was when I first saw it. It looked like a dog, a smaller one, a middle sized poodle or so, but I wasn't sure. It was oddly colored — pinkish, as I recall — for a dog. But, who knows these days? Crazy people die their dogs all different kinds of colors, I guess.

We walked on. The distant 'dog' or whatever it was didn't move. It stayed stationary, like it was glued to the ground. Within a few steps of my sighting of it, Asia caught sight of it. She didn't abandon her usual exploits, sniffing and dodging here and there, checking things out as she went, but she definitely kept whatever it was in mind while veering and pulling in that direction anytime she thought I might take her an opposite one.

The closer I got, the better I could see it. Pretty soon, I knew what it was. It was a child's toy on wheels that looked like a dog or some creature like a dog. As soon as I knew what it was I quit focusing on yet and began watching Asia closer.

The closer Asia got to the toy, the more wary of it she became. She didn't want to approach it too fast, I guess. She wasn't anxious to hurry up to it in case it was ready to slash into her eyes with its claws, lift its tail and spray, or something gruesome. To Asia, it was a living thing, frozen from motion, waiting to attack, or to flee, but to flee only if it was absolutely necessary. Asia veered away from it, but when she saw we were so close and it was not doing anything, not fleeing, not attacking, decided to walk over and sniff it, which she did.

And then she was off.

As a man, a straight man, what have I missed through the years relative to my privilege as a man over against what women have? In particular, within my culture and religion, how do those questions play out?

Friday, September 7, 2012

The responsibilities of doo doo

Speaking of walking Asia, how do you feel about walking around the neighborhood with a plastic bag full of dog doo doo? Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if you could just start out with the bag full, filled by somebody else and handed to you along with the leash and the dog. But seriously, what if you have to be the one gathering the droppings?

I don't imagine too many people would find it appealing or want to do it themselves.

In fact, now that I think of it, I think I'll have to start noticing better what the people out there walking their dogs are doing about that responsibility, whether they are picking up after their mutts or not. Obviously, the dogs aren't doing it. Well, the dogs are doing it, but they're not doing what we humans consider appropriate. It's not within their values.

I know some people who do pick up after their dogs. Chris and Tori always do so. But truthfully, I'm not sure what others do or don't do. I haven't watched closely enough to know. Should I? I'm pretty sure Robert doesn't; after all, he's got two medium-sized dogs he takes at once, often letting them go loose and then he gathers them in if he sees somebody coming who might distract his dogs. So logistically it probably would be very very difficult for him to do. Nonetheless, I still think he should.

I admit that bending over and using a plastic bag to gather the canine's deposit is quite disgusting but not beyond anyone's ability to do. Well, there are exceptions, I guess, people who are handicapped and can't bend over and pick it up. But, if my wife could do it, and did do it routinely when she walked Moochie a.k.a. Asia, there is no reason on earth why almost anyone else who can walk a dog couldn't do it. It's a matter of responsibility and sacrifice.

Enough of that.

Well, not quite. Stopping and gathering what is unseemly and distasteful must be some kind of a metaphor for what we have to do in life. Should there be a distinction made between individuals who take that degree of responsibility and those who do not? Should we individually ever make that kind of judgments about others? I definitely think we should judge ourselves in that regard and learn to do and commit to doing the responsible thing. As to judging others, I think, if it is in the collective interests of a community to do so, it would be appropriate to make an ordinance requiring the same. But long before we get to that point, people should take it upon themselves to do what is right. If enough people took it upon themselves to do what was right, ordinances and laws possibly would not be necessary.

But they don't. It is clearly the law to keep your dog controlled, in your yard fenced, or on a leash that provides adequate control. There are plenty of people around the neighborhood who don't.

How has this dynamic changed over time?

How does the dynamic of how women are treated in our society changed over time?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Opposition in All Things

We have our differences, Asia and I.

But mostly we are on the same page. She's a little more casual and easy-going than I am. At least, that's the perception I have of other people's opinions of her and me. One thing, I think Asia is a Democrat. If she could talk, I'm pretty sure she'd say she was. If they'd let her vote, I'm pretty sure that's the platform she'd support. Candidates would benefit from her endorsement. She's attractive and sweet. She's kind except to cats and excitable dogs. I think she thinks they are Republicans.

As to differences between us, she often wants to go an alternative direction than I do. Usually, this involves preferences as to what to avoid or what to enjoy. I don't want to admit that she has higher standards than I. That's not the issue…or is it? Sometimes it has to do with just wanting to extend the walk, get some more exercise. It's usually her, not me, that wants to go on further, fanatic that she is. She has more stamina, more enthusiasm for walking or trotting, and more curiosity than I do.

The differences as to the direction we go don't usually involve politics. Asia wants to go further away from home; I want to stick close and return and go have a chocolate chip cookie. Asia wants to avoid a mean, barking dog or raucous equipment, so she says let's go this way; I want to check out the progress of carpenters working on a project at the neighborhood house or the new car so and so bought. Asia wants to check out the newest bitch; I don't think it's appropriate for a married man to do that.

So what happens if we have a difference of opinion? First of all, she lets me know. After all, I have a leash in my hand, and she knows how to use it. Sometimes all she has to do is tug and I relent. I try to be kind. Other times, I don't want to go the way she does; it's a matter of principle. It becomes a standoff. She tugs and pulls and sometimes whines, and I stand there, sometimes tugging back, sometimes pulling hard, and, frankly, sometimes whining myself. She usually gets her way, although she'd probably tell a different story.

She's a female, and I'm for feminine rights. I need to do better to support her. The patriarchy has too much power.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What she does, what I do

I like to watch Asia as we go, but there's only so much about her on walks after all this time that still holds my attention.

Quite frankly, I've mostly passed the point of needing to stare at her or at what she does while we go on our route. I can more or less zone out or concentrate on something else. I more or less let her choose the pace, with some restrictions. Obviously, if she wanted to run or sprint, that wouldn't work. I prevent that from happening. I have the leash and the weight advantage. We usually stroll, and I always stop for her to explore, unless there's another dog or a kitty. Anymore, if she wants to stop and visit with a human being, especially with children, if they're willing, I'll stop and try and comply with her desire and theirs.

But I usually have an earphone stuck in at least one of my ears, usually my right one, for what I want to concentrate on, given the circumstances of Asia exploring the smells, the bushes, the fire hydrants, the lamp posts, the flowers etc.

Most of the time, especially mornings, the earphone is hooked to a portable radio, a little Sony I've had for years. I purchased it originally because it used to play the audio from the local television stations when they were still analog. Those days are gone, however; that feature is its obsolete. More and more, I feel outmoded myself. But the device still plays the local radio stations, both AM and FM, and my favorite is NPR. The local NPR station is KUER, located at 90.1 FM. It's broadcast, as I understand it, from the University of Utah.

By the time I get going, Diane Rehm is usually on. Her program, of course, varies, sometimes with reviews of books, or guests who have written books on particular topics or who are featured in some magazine or newspaper. Experts in some field or another. Politics. Current events. Whatever. Diane is about as balanced as anyone I've ever heard on radio or seen on television. Often, she has someone fill in for her. She has problems with her voice. Anyway, KUER broadcasts two hours of her program. The next program in the morning is Radiowest, whose host is usually Doug Fabrizio.

All the while I'm listening, Asia has her routine. You can probably somewhat imagine it, although I'm not sure you can imagine how casual she is unless you know something about greyhounds. She isn't at all flighty, like some dogs are. In fact, she is pretty cool and collected. She does some sniffing but probably less than most dogs do. After all, she's not like a bloodhound. She is in the class of dogs known as sight hounds, so she's a looker, not a sniffer.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Today was Labor Day.

Asia and I labored on around the neighborhood again as usual.

Well, I guess it's more a labor for me than I think it is for Asia. After all, I don't go begging or reminding her we need to get going, but she does me.

Oh, she's nice enough about it, discreet and all. She doesn't do much yapping or jumping up on me or anything radical at all. In fact, she doesn't ever do any of that, except sometimes slightly when the feat is accomplished.

Her coaxing me to the deed is much more subtle. She'll come in if I'm sitting at the computer and nudge my hand with her snout. I'll scratch her head and pat her body. After I quit, she'll crouch down and wait. If nothing happens, that is, I don't start putting on my tennis shoes or start searching for the radio or iPod, after ten or fifteen minutes she'll get up and go away for a few minutes. Pout Pretty soon, though, she'll be back again to repeat her procedure. If she hears me get up or move about, she'll be there at my side immediately, checking out whether I'm putting on my shoes and getting my hat on or not.

Asia might be a dog, a sight hound, but she isn't stupid.

Nothing particularly out of the ordinary happened on today's walk except the fact that more people were out strolling with their dogs today. When a person with a dog approaches or overtakes us, I gather Asia's leash so that if she gets growly at the approaching dog, I can lift her off her feet and disorient her somewhat. That helps. It seems to be working. She's getting better, and on this Labor Day she wasn't growly to any of the approaching doggies. Or me.

One feminist I read today asked some interesting questions. She asked could she be LDS and think that women should be ordained. Could she be a Mormon and be disgusted that Joseph Smith pressured young girls and married women to marry him to receive their exaltations? Could she be LDS and actively embrace LGBT sisters and brothers? Could she be Mormon and blatantly disagree with decisions made by male leaders? Could she be LDS if she thought the LDS God didn't consider her equal, although she might be important?

These are some of the questions I might want to address in my upcoming work.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Plastic Bags and Paying Attention

I admit I don't always pay strict attention to Asia when I walk her. Oh, I keep her securely on her leash and make sure she can't get out of her harness and all that, but I don't watch her constantly. Why?

Parts of Asia's activities aren't that interesting at all, and some can be said to be downright disgusting.

However, I can't responsibly ignore the most disgusting of them because I have to collect the results, solid and firm or as runny as syrup. I carry my collections of her excretions — a little euphemism is probably necessary – until I find a garbage can to deposit them in. That's why Thursdays, the day you put the garbage can out in our neighborhood, and Fridays, the day that the garbage collectors actually come and dump the garbage cans, have advantages for me because there are plenty of depositories on those particular days. On other days, I just look for the neighborhood's neglected green garbage cans along the route, which have been left out. You know, people go on vacations, forget to bring them in, and ignore them. Or they choose to fill them with their trash at the curb and avoid all the hassle of the bringing in the can and taking out the trash. Absent these left behinds, I carry what I collect until I get home and then make my deposit in my own green can.

There are some days when I don't make any collections. Asia is, if you must know, pretty regular, but like most of us she has her problematic days. Some days her output has succeeded the three bags I take with me. It isn't a matter of the bags being full or anything. It has to do with logistics, but I won't call upon you to use your imagination to fill in the blanks. Let's just move on. There have been a few days when I couldn't make collections because I forgot to bring what I needed to make the collection with.

Anyway, too much information. Simply, I don't always pay strict attention to Asia. Every girl needs her privacy.

There are risks to ignoring her however. We can be walking along and she might see a cat I haven't seen at all. If there is any slack in the leash, I can be in trouble, because a former racetrack greyhound, like Moochie — did I mention that that is her nickname — can accelerate amazingly fast, and my hand is attached to the other end of her leash. It can be extremely painful and I can be pulled right off my feet. Ask my joints in the arm holding the leash, if you don't believe me about the pain. No wonder my left shoulder grinds and I have to grit my teeth and suffering when I move it.

Anyway, it was Sunday today, and we made our usual two trips, the first a little after 9 AM this morning and then the other one this evening a little after 7 PM. Things went all right; there were no surprises today. In fact, today there were two kitties, one in the morning and one in the evening, that were quite close to us, one huddled in the gutter and the other crouching in a driveway, that I saw but that Asia missed. So I guess there was some surprise. Anyway don't ask me how that happened. Sometimes Asia can sense a kitty without ever seeing it, so it's all quite a mystery.

Of course, in the morning today, before church, I took my Kindle with me to read my bom33 lesson from Julie, which she posts almost every week on the Times and Seasons blog. The way this works is that I get myself all set up with earphones in my ears, the earphone cord threaded through the neck of my shirt with the connection hanging out the bottom of my shirt. This is after I have stuffed my pockets with the necessary plastic bags. I then put the harness on Asia and put my hand in the end of the leash that I hold onto. I then grab my Kindle, open the door and go out and down the stairs, following the dog. Then we pause. Or rather, I pause and Asia tries to pull me along. I win.

I then stick the end of the earphone cord into the Kindle, opened the Kindle's cover, open the file I need — in this case my bom33 lesson — and press the necessary keys on the keyboard of the Kindle to have the text read so I can hear it in the headphones. And off we go. In this manner, I was prepared in Sunday school. This evening, after all the folderol, I listened to music.

A friend from the neighborhood wants to walk with us so she can tell me her theory about blacks and the priesthood. I told her I was anxious to hear her theory. Of course, blacks and the priesthood is a resolved dilemma. Questions I now contemplate involve things like LGBT rights and the patriarchy.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Storm Can Have an Effect

It stormed last night and cooled things off.

This morning, when we walked later than usual, it was very comfortable, but verging on more storm. We took a shorter route and stayed closer to home. Asia avoids wind, thunder and lightning, and rain.

At home, when things outside become raucous, Asia will go to the bedroom and hunker down there until it becomes calm again. The east side of the house is more dynamic in most storms. Many winds howl out of the east, where the mountains are, sweeping down through the foothills, where our house is, to the valley below.

We have a flue where we could have a fireplace or stovepipe on the east side of the house. It is covered on the roof with sheet metal, and during a wind storm the erratic pressure expands and contracts it, making thunderous sounds like a percussionist beating timpani. This drives Moochie — Moochie is Asia's nickname — west, to the bedroom.

Actually, Asia wanted to walk further, up the long hill to the approaching a half-million dollar houses on the northern bench that overlooks South Weber. By the time we would have made that turn to go west instead of east, the sky began to rumble and a few droplets of rain fell. Asia will balk and tugged in the direction she wants to go. She knows how to put on the brakes, planting her paws and locking her legs. She is quite strong and insistent. I am patient with her, waiting a few minutes, then talking gently and tugging her along, being careful she doesn't slip her way out of her harness.

By the time we got back to 3700 N., she was ready to get back home. The volume of the thunder combined with the frequency of raindrops contained more persuasive effect than my earlier attempts to tug and coax her.

The procedure on reaching the house doesn't very much. First of all, I dump whatever I have collected in plastic bags from Walmart in the outside garbage can. We then climb the stairs and go in the door. Asia pauses at the bottom of the stairs that go up to the living area from the living room we have entered. Sometimes she pauses on the stairs. Her pause is necessary so I can remove her leash. She then proceeds up the stairs, opens the doggie gate there and goes into the kitchen to get a drink. Sometimes if someone is up there, she might get distracted.

I put her leash away, empty my pockets of any other plastic bags I used to pick up after her and put them in the closet along with the leash.

I don't think there can be any question but that over time in Western culture women have fared better and better the more they stood up for themselves and others took their cause seriously and helped them.

a good turn of word in the lathe of literature

This is a review of TRUCK, A LOVE STORY by Michael Perry.

Don't you think the title of this book TRUCK, A LOVE STORY seems a little hokey, maybe even manipulative? It's as if its author — or more likely, the book's editor/publisher, who most often does the naming — wanted to broaden the book's market appeal. How many women would read a book titled TRUCK? How many men would read A LOVE STORY (setting aside that old romance novel by Eric Segal, which was made into a movie)? However, I guess it could be said that this particular book appeals to broader audiences than those just enamored of a particular vehicle or of touchy-feely stories of romance and love.

Well, all of that is beside the point. The book is good, worth reading whether you're a male or female or somewhere in between. Michael Perry writes well, even if it seems sometimes he has too much on his mind. I happened to read this with a book club comprised primarily of women. They generally outnumber the men in the group three or four to one. Many of the books we read could be considered more or less feminine oriented and sometimes I've even heard the women themselves utilize the term chick lit. Because they outnumber the men so far this is the dynamic we men in the group have to live with. But truthfully, we cover a broad swath of interesting fiction and nonfiction, mostly fiction, which brings me to this book.

Is TRUCK, A LOVE STORY fiction or nonfiction? It reads like a memoir, but I never did really see anywhere where it claims to be nonfiction. Perhaps, Michael Perry realizes that imaginations always figure into memories and experiences anyway. (The author after all writes, "Fortunately, the eye is an organ capable of deception. In collusion with the brain, it convinces you to ignore what you see — or don't see.) Or perhaps I just missed where it says what it is.

This is a slow reading piece, a work you want to take your time with, a book you might start reading in bed at night if you want to go to sleep. Now I don't mean by that to say that it is boring or anything derogatory. But don't compare it with today's fast-paced fare, which seems targeted at hyperactivity disordered readers. This isn't calculated to keep you on the edge of your seat, shrieking, or covering your eyes in order to cope. Instead it'll make you want to languish like you are in the Bahamas on the beach with unlimited time and plenty of food and drink by your side with the most charming companion.

Where does a truck come in to all of this? Perry is restoring an old International Harvester truck with his brother. The restoration ticks off the time in the book. Perry's attitude is communicated in this manner: "In 1951, a man bought a pickup truck because he needed to blow things up and move them. Things like bricks and bags of feed. Somewhere along the line trendsetters and marketers got involved, and now we buy pickups — big, horse-powered, overbuilt, wide-assed, comfortable pickups — so that we may stick our key in the ignition of an icon, fire up an image, and drive off in a cloud of connotations. I have no room to talk. I long to get my International running in part so I can drive down roads that no longer exist."

Who is Perry? He describes himself: "At thirty-eight, I'm still a few follicles from a Category Cue Ball." This is one of his obsessions, besides his truck. He says, "I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian sect that not only frowned on vanity but viewed long hair on a man as sinful." He also describes himself as follows: "No matter our vocation, we so often find ourselves living life as a form of triage. I need more time with the dirt, the sense of the soil with its plenty." So gardening is another of his — I don't want to say obsessions — passions.

Family is another honored subject for the author. Speaking of his grandmother, he says "this time she raised five children of her own and took in another twenty-eight foster children. She did her baking with a .22 rifle at hand and was known to step away from the stove to snipe feral cats and once an incautious woodchuck."

And what of the love story part of the title? Well, there is Anneliese. But I can't say more without spoiling it for you, so I'll shut up and just recommend that you pick up the book, especially if you appreciate a good turn of word in the lathe of literature. If you like anecdotes stacked within the framework of car restoration and raising turnips while discovering a love interest, then find a beach in the South Pacific or Caribbean and languish away with TRUCK, A LOVE STORY in hand.

Friday, August 31, 2012

This is a review of NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro.

I've been debating whether or not I should do this review. There are some awesome ones already. What can I add? Probably nothing.

I read NEVER LET ME GO as a consequence of belonging to a book club that meets monthly at a local Barnes & Noble store. My wife --- we've been married forty-one years --- recommended it to the group. My wife's been recently reading extensively --- not that she hasn't always --- but more so now because she has chronic cancer. The malignancy, and her treatments for it, keep her down. She can't do the physical activities she used to, so she spends time in less intensive physical activities, like reading. So whereas she used to get a daily physical workout, now her mind gets an extra rigorous one.

My wife found this list: the 1001 novels you should read before you die. This book was the first one on it. She hadn't read it, so she did some research, found data indicating it had been awarded various prizes, given much merit, and had favorable reviews from people on Goodreads, Amazon, and the like. So she recommended that the group read it. Among other suggestions by others, her recommendation won out.

I'm very glad we read it. It is well written, thought-provoking, and, to me, haunting. It is a treatise on morality and ethics blended into a tender, moving, and heartrending story. It was subtly done, not at all jarring or didactic. It seemed kind of like adding exactly the right amount of garlic to a roasting chicken, one that once cooked tastes scrumptious so you want your fill, but you're prevented from doing so.

The novel presents the story of that one wish --- never, as a human being, to be let go of --- which is quite universal. I think everyone wishes to have someone in life who will stick with them to the end, who will always hang on and hang out with them. I remember easily it's main characters: TOMMY D., RUTH, and KATHY H.

KATHY H. is the novel's narrator and protagonist. She reminisces about her youth, growing up in an institution, Hailsham --- a sham of an institution. For Hailsham imposes, we learn as we read through the novel, through subtle manipulation, the ultimate hell upon its occupants. That they, as human clones, are considered inferior to those who are not cloned. They must accept the responsibility to sacrifice themselves, their very lives, as, perhaps, for a while, "carers", and, ultimately, as "donors" by giving up needed vital organs --- their hearts, their lungs, their livers, etc. --- to humans who are not cloned. So Kathy H. as a young girl and adolescent interacts at Hailsham with her friends, Ruth and Tommy D., who then ultimately remain with her beyond Hailsham. In essence, it is Kathy H. who never lets Tommy D. and Ruth go.

Ishiguro nicely sketches out these three characters with unique features and intertwines them. While some in the group found the premise unrealistic, in my situation I found it compelling, thought-provoking, moving.


Fun, but it could've been funner; funny, but it shouldn't have been so funny.

I graduated from high school in 1966. So I was pretty young when the original Star Trek television series played out. Sometimes I feel I'm just as young and naïve now.

This science fiction novel depended upon knowledge of the series, the fact that crewmembers unimportant to the continuing television saga got killed off in dramatic ways in the Enterprise's weekly exploitations. Scalzi plays on that "flaw" and builds his story from there.

So the main dynamic is set in the future with a spaceship named Intrepid and its "secondary" characters. The main characters of the novel, those secondary characters, figure out that essentially the same dynamic is happening to them.

Satire raises its head for savvy readers. Characterization is wanting. The dialogue seemed unnecessarily strained. The narrative focuses on the underlying mechanics and physicality of the scenario. The codas that follow the basic narrative play stronger, addressing such issues as life, choice, duty.

Where's my mother — in heaven?

Asia and I took a walk.

That's nothing new. It's mostly Asia's fault we go. She begs me; I resist, but I'm weak. I always have been susceptible to more gentle persuasion, muzzle nudging and kissing my hand with her wet nose.

We go out these days in the summertime two times, in the morning, not too early, and in the evening, when things have cooled off. Sometimes I try to keep us in the shade when it's particularly hot. There've been times when Asia finds the shade and makes us stop. Sometimes, she leaves me in the sun. She doesn't, however, usually lie down, but I wouldn't put it past her.

It's harder for me to go in the evening. It's tough to get up and move, not necessarily because I've wasted all my energy doing this or that physical feat during the day, but I guess I've mostly used what energy an old person in my poor shape and challenged health has.

We have our routes, the dog and I. However, they can always vary — usually they do in some respect. Tonight out the door and down the steps, we headed left, east, toward the mountains. We only passed two houses before the street turned and headed south. Usually, we continue in that mode, going south, until the street turns again and goes west. This evening, however, we turned on a street that intersects the street we were on and went west prematurely from our usual route.

Anyway, it's Friday night. Some Friday nights the streets are busy. Other Friday nights they are not. Tonight, earlier, there had been harsh winds and some showers. It was cooler, which you would think would bring out the masses, but it didn't. There weren't a lot of people out and about. Even the kids — especially the one little girl who's about three or four and always runs toward us shouting "Can I pet that dog? Can I pet that dog?" — weren't out tonight.

Sometimes I find myself wondering what people are doing. Fridays seem like a good day to go out to eat, to go to the mall, to go to a concert or the movie. Maybe that accounted for fewer people being out tonight.

Anyway, I want to attempt to make more frequent entries on my blog here. I'm writing the last few pages of my latest book, which was inspired by the Wikipedia controversies, the notion of privacy, and notions of surveillance and torture. It will need some revision, perhaps considerable, and whatnot, but I've been thinking about what I want to write about next. Women. Well, more than that, women's rights.

Now it might seem ill advised for a man — using the terminology liberally — to want to write about women's rights. The argument could be, shouldn't women write about that subject and take care of it, not men. I'm all for that, but I got to thinking. As a faithful man, I got to thinking about Heavenly Father and wondering why had I haven't ever seriously asked where is my Heavenly Mother? Seriously, why haven't I seriously considered that question?

So that's it.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


This is a novel to Peck at. Peckishly, perhaps. To cluck at, to cock a doodle do to.

Compiled by a Redactor, who is in a way, its Nick Carraway or Scout Finch, THE SCHOLAR OF MOAB is not the type of fiction that you want to wolf down. Savoring it is certainly the preferred method of consumption. In fact, as you try to digest it, you may want to eat gravel for your gizzard to make sure everything you've pecked up comes out ground down to a movable mass. You don't want it to get stuck in there. I suggest you consume yourself some redrock for that.

The place to get your redrock is at Arches National Park, known for its multitude of natural sandstone arches --- something like 2,000 of them. It's a beautiful place. Arches is also, as I understand it, the home of Suelo, a guy who advocates living without money. Google Suelo and see what I mean. How can you beat that? The Arches National Park is located just outside of Moab, Utah, a quirky place on its own, which general area is the fitting general setting of THE SCHOLAR OF MOAB. Visit or vacation there, preferably, in the spring time or the late fall.

That area's where protagonist, Hyrum Thayne, the scholar of Moab, lives with his devout, sometimes clueless, practicing Mormon wife, Sarah. In the surrounding vicinity resides the very capable --- Is she cagey or crazy or both? --- poet, Dora Tanner. Tanner's poetic verse has been apparently quite enticing, you might say, to Hyrum. Read the book and you'll find out how. You'll also find out what makes Hyrum so enticing, not necessarily in the way Dora has been enticed. Let me just say this: Hyrum was hilarious. Dora describes Hyrum as "affectionate, passionate, caring, independent, brave, lovely, cunning, honest, blind, confused, visionary, thoughtful, ardent, worried, gentle, god-fearing, genteel, bright, exuberant, shrewd, Mormon, handsome, puppyish, deceptive, thankful, fresh, naïve, pagan, scholarly." That pretty much sums him up pretty well. Dora says of herself that she is a Wiccan, has agnostic leanings, might be considered by Hyrum as a "Jack Mormon." She says they never talk about religion but "it seems to haunt" their "conversation beneath the surface of things in telling ways."

The Moab and the La Sal Mountains area are also where the conjoined Babcock twins, William and Edward --- moderated by Marcel --- cowboyed in their younger years. The narrative sketches out their history, including their education, their exploits and professions, and the difficulties of living with a brother slipping into dementia.

The comedian, George Carlin, as I recall, became discouraged and depressed from the unequal treatment given UFO believers compared to religious believers by the media. He observed that media moguls termed UFO believers "buffs" to relegate them to mere hobbyists and enthusiasts. He thought their disparaging characterization by the media, given a universe comprised of trillions and trillions of stars and multitudes of possible planets suitable for habitation, was untenable when compared to the deference given to believers in supreme beings. This novel made me wonder if its BYU-evolutionary-ecologist-professor author didn't read him some Carlin, too. Maybe gain some inspiration there? It's just a thought.

This book is a pastiche of fun, pain, and entertainment. There is plenty of seed on the ground to Peck up and digest. Most of all, I found it unique and compelling. I recommend you read it and see for yourself and let me know.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Dirty Job

DIRT, by David Vann, made me want to take a shower and an antidepressant. And I'm not a depressive. I needed to wash it off and purge it from my system, physically and mentally. For me, it was difficult to get through and to be done with.

It is that bad.

And you know what? I think it was intended to be so. In that respect it was a success.

Why do I think such terrible things about DIRT?

Because its title characterizes it. It is about people who are dirty, filthy, and squalid. Its story is soiled, like someone defecating, and at its end, it's ready to bury the fecal material and you hope it's digger will fall in, too. As a novel, it doesn't have a story arc in the conventional sense. It lacks a valid protagonist and gives voice throughout to a flatulent pro-antagonist, who spouts New Age philosophy and practices. All of its characters are corrupt, contemptible, and turbid, or incompetent.

Yet, as a work of fiction, it is well written and executed --- pun intended.

It's setting --- in a California nut orchard --- makes obvious that its characters are wacko. They certainly live up to it.

Galen is the twenty-two-year-old son of an insecure, manipulative mother, Susie Q. His mother is doing everything possible to prevent Galen from growing up and becoming independent, yet she herself relies on the resources of her institutionalized mother, who has dementia. Other characters include Galen's Aunt Helen, who apparently also is dependent on her mother and hates her sister. She is, also, a loser. And then there is Helen's seventeen-year-old daughter, Jennifer, a seemingly independent, promiscuous spitfire and opportunist. She is the only character, for me, whose soil may be somewhat fertile.

Normally, Galen would be the protagonist, but he's not up to the job in the novel, even though apparently he can get it up. He doesn't have any of the characteristics of a hero. He isn't endowed with courage or strength or celebrated for bold exploits. It's pretty much the opposite: he is a coward who is weak and timid. What twenty-two-year-old man with any moxie sticks around for the kind of squalor his mother dishes out? So instead Galen takes the role as the villain. He does a good job of it.

So a protagonist in DIRT is absent or nebulous --- maybe it's some "principle of philosophy" or "and idea about the contamination of generational family dysfunction and suicide." To tell you the truth, I don't know what it is. But I will say this, the novel makes me think. It has that much going for it.

Read it, but don't let it soil you.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Edgar Award for ICEFALL

Matt Kirby, my friend and a fellow critiquing group member, just won an Edgar Award for his book ICEFALL. I'm so proud of his accomplishments and his success. He's been working as a school psychologist but will be quiting soon and moving to Northern Idaho to write full time. He has, I believe, something like five books under contract. He has also published through Scholastic THE CLOCKWORK THREE. It has been fun to read and critique these works in their inceptions and to see Matt succeed as an author. He is not only a great author, he is a fine friend and human being.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Lost Argument: A Latter-Day Novel

Theresa Doucet is a very good writer. I hope she keeps writing, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Let me first say how I came to this novel, A LOST ARGUMENT.

I follow a few Mormon blogs, including some a little more scholarly than others. (I aspire.) Since I do some writing myself, I also pay particular attention to new writers in the Mormon tradition, since that's my background, too. On one of the blogs, I noticed a discussion about this book. I followed some hyperlinks. Consequently, I learned that Doucet is quite capable in the realm of philosophy. (I aspire to that a little bit, too.) I also noticed that she participates in Goodreads, so I sent her a friend request. She graciously accepted. Sometime later, Goodreads sent me some of her reviews, including one of ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner. She had given it what, in my opinion, was a less than gracious rating, so I engaged her about that. I found her responses articulate and well-argued, and I was duly impressed. Subsequently, she suggested perhaps we ought to exchange books. I would read hers and she would read one of mine. She sent me A LOST ARGUMENT. So now I will attempt to review it and tell you what I think.

The protagonist of A LOST ARGUMENT is Marguerite Farnsworth. She lives in Arizona. She's a young LDS (member of the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints) student going to BYU, the Mormon university in Provo, Utah. She has a brother and sister who have other lives and more or less ignore Marguerite. She has a father, a cardiologist, who works incessantly. Her mother, too, seems too busy for Marguerite. That says a lot about her life right there.

The first sentence of the book's prologue sets forth, in my opinion, the book's premise. "Maybe I'm strange and perverse," Marguerite says, "but I've always thought there was something sexy about a compelling argument."

Well, that pretty much wraps up what the book focuses on: Marguerite's need for intimacy (sex) in the context of argumentation. Of course, it all takes some time for her to realize that that's exactly what she wants and needs, so I think it's strange for it to be in the prologue. Also, right off, it seems odd that she would expect to find anything relative to either sex or arguments at BYU. After all, I knew to rescue my fiancé, to whom I've now been married going on forty-one years, from BYU for exactly those reasons. But Marguerite is young and naïve, possibly more than I or my fiancé were, even though it appears she is much more intelligent and knowledgeable, especially as it relates to history and philosophy.

To me, Marguerite is needy. Plain and simple. That is, if it's possible for one committed so lovingly to philosophy to be anything that's plain and simple, she is. And it's probably not. "… I'm ugly and foolish," Marguerite says, "and love beauty and wisdom, his beauty and wisdom, because there's none in me."

Needy. It isn't that she's short of funds; that's not what I mean by needy. It's more that she needs love --- including sexual intimacy --- with someone with whom she can have a serious argument --- serious arguments. Argumentation is central to Marguerite's being. She needs this kind of love so much she is almost tempted to beg for it, to grovel for it, to totally compromise herself for it. Or to die for it, both metaphorically and literally. It relates to her several bouts of depression. The problem, however, is that she thinks that in her traditional Mormon culture the two ideas are anathema. They're not, but that's another matter altogether. But that's where the central tension of the book is, in her need to have someone she can be sexually intimate with who will help her address her crises of knowledge. She wants it, but she can't legitimately have it. Not and keep her faith and all that goes with it. "I thought about it," Marguerite says, "and after a while said, 'I would be happy if, just for once, someone would come up to me and say, "You know, Marguerite, I've seen your work, I see what you're trying to do, and it's beautiful." If only someone saw beauty in me.'" Plus, she asks God, "Why did you make me so ugly and unlovable, so unworthy inside and out?"

I enjoyed Marguerite's trips abroad, especially to Germany, since I spent two years --- yeah, you guessed it --- there. I enjoyed the characters she created. She has a talent for painting characters who have their own voices, who are unique and interesting. Her characters include not only the people she interacted with, her friends and family, but also wide-ranging philosophers and authors and their far-flung works.

I liked this passage in particular: "The day before she left for Utah, Marguerite awoke to the sound of something buzzing and rattling against her window. She peered through the blinds and saw it was a large brown grasshopper that had gotten itself trapped between the blinds and the glass windowpane. It was propelling itself against the glass over and over again, thinking it was moving toward freedom, only to find itself continually blocked and bruised and instead. Marguerite felt instant sympathy for it." I love that Marguerite saved the grasshopper --- I love that it was a grasshopper over against an ant --- and I imagine that there will always be someone there to save Marguerite too.

(One particular peccadillo: Theresa writes "…after I graduated high school…" I know everybody says that now instead of "I graduated from high school." However, I have to ask: how many times can a particular high school be graduated and in what sense are they graduated?)

In today's literary field, this book is an anomaly. The bulk of contemporary readers want something facile, something exceedingly fast-paced and like the hot-and-bothered romances Marguerite alludes to in the prologue. Such readers are impatient and, probably, less educated. However, what Marguerite has to say can't be said that way. It has more depth and takes greater thought than that. In fact, to some extent the novel seems to gloss over interesting details that I wanted to know better. I would have preferred to see segments of Marguerite's transformation more fleshed out, answering more of my questions, giving more dialogue and intimate interaction between herself and others.

As a writer, I would have preferred to see Theresa write segments of Marguerite's stories more focused than trying to cover so much ground so fast. Or, at least, to weed out less important aspects of her story and concentrate more on the pith illustrated in certain scenes. Or, maybe, I just need to go back and read it all again. In any event, this is a book about a young woman trying to reconcile her tradition and religion with truth. In my opinion, truth is a slippery subject. I like what Genly Ai says in Ursula Le Guin's THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS: truth is a matter of the imagination. I recommend you read the book and make your judgments about it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Beginning of My New Novel --- As of Now

Espionage? It was laughable. Even if it wasn't a joke, Julie Townsend didn't think an espionage charge against Angela Beckstrom could ever stand up. The news just couldn't be the truth. It simply couldn't be just or fair. Not of Angela.
She pulled into Angela's driveway on Boise's fringe and stopped. Her best friend's house sat near Collister's peter-out point. And that's how Julie felt, at the end of her road, wasted. She needed time to think about what had happened and her position relative to it. And for certain, she needed more information, a lot more. You could never know too much.

It was the end of July and things were hot. And August usually got hotter still.

"Quit it, Ptolemy," she told her dog, a rescued greyhound that pushed his nose over the back of her seat into her neck, interrupting her thoughts. The mutt was anxious to be out and about with the car now parked.  Julie had grown used to the dog's antics, and a slippery snout was part of that.
She returned to her original thoughts. Fairness as it related to Angela; something she’d never thought about before, had never had to. Now it had arisen because of her best friend's arrest and incarceration.

"Lie down!" she told Ptolemy. Yeah, like that was going to happen. But the dog turned around twice as best it could on the narrow back seat and settled down.
Angela's detention didn't seem fair, not in Julie's gut or in her heart.  But still, she needed to think it completely through before deciding. In order to utilize her intellect to reason it fully through, however, she'd need data, a lot more facts than she had. She knew so little. In any event, Angela was her best friend and nothing would change that.

Ptolemy stayed down about eight seconds. Then his wet nose nudged at her again and brushed back and forth along her neck. "Quit it!" she said. She pushed his muzzle and blasted him with words. "Bad dog. Lie down."
Ptolemy whined.

"And shut up," she said. "You bellyache as bad as Ron."
Information, the collection of facts and data, the handling of it: that, it appeared, was what the whole arrest was about. According to news reports, scanty as they were, the FBI had arrested Angela and put her in jail for espionage, for obtaining secret information and passing it on.

Espionage? It was just unbelievable. They'd nabbed Angela. Allegedly, she'd received and passed on secrets of the United States without permission to do so. At least that was what the news reports said. And Ron, Julie's husband of ten years, who'd watched the reports with her, had then called Angela a traitor from the get-go, on the scantiest of information. In fact, after Ron had watched Fox News one time --- Fox was his usual channel --- he'd been ready to charge, convict, and sentence Angela to death. What an idiot.
Julie and Ron had always been light years apart on politics and philosophy. Julie had generally deferred to him, however, to begin with because she saw other redeeming features about him; but lately, it was in order to keep the peace. Sometimes she simply ignored his rants. Given their differences, it was a miracle their marriage had lasted.

But Angela, arrested for spying? It was hard to comprehend. Angela had been Julie's best friend since seventh grade. It didn't seem possible she could be in jail, let alone isolated in a cell all alone for something as serious as spying was. It seemed like a sick joke. It wasn't funny. Presumably Angela was in Boise, but who knew for certain?  Especially, with a charge like espionage. Maybe they'd shipped her to Africa or to the Middle East to "question" her.
Anyway, Angela couldn't have visitors or get correspondence. At least, that's what the receptionist at the Sherriff's office had told Julie when she inquired. Then the receptionist, upon finding out Julie's connection to Angela--- "But I'm her best friend!" --- had told Julie to hold on while she transferred her call to the FBI. "They might have questions for you." "For me?" "Yeah, for you." It frightened Julie to think she might know something pertinent to the espionage charge. But the FBI had just taken down Julie's name and phone number; they hadn't quizzed her but had only said they'd be in touch later.

So, it appeared, Angela would remain in jail, at least for the foreseeable future. Bail hadn't been set; some said it wouldn't be. And Julie, to be frank, didn't know what she could do about that. Or, even if the court did set bail, what she would be able to do about it.
If Julie could first of all decide somehow whether or not the arrest was fair, it'd be a lot easier to decide what measures, if any, she should or could take about getting Angela out, if it became at all possible to get her out. Espionage seemed special, a problem requiring a superhuman to deal with it.

It looked as if, from what Julie had pieced together, Angela had just yesterday, inexplicably, left her modest, twenty-five-year-old home — all the home Angela, as far as Julie knew, had ever cared about or desired — for an afternoon of disc golf.
Disc golf?  Angela had, it appeared, taken her old white Camry up near Bogus Basin ski resort to play disc golf with some new casual friends. At least that's what Angela's brother, Vern Peek, had told Julie.

Angela didn't have many friends: a few acquaintances from two book clubs, a handful of people from her church, a small number of neighbors. A couple of relatives. Nobody else was nearly as close to her as Julie was, however.
Besides, disc golf didn't seem like the kind of activity Angela would like, other than maybe for some flight of fantasy that she would actually get fully fit. Angela wasn't sporty, hadn't ever been. She preferred sitting in her leather recliner and reading in air-conditioned comfort to, of all things, disc golf.

Angela did have an elliptical machine in her basement. She kept in decent shape. There she'd listen to books on tape as she pedaled and moved her arms to and fro. Afterward, she'd stick her earphones in and take her dog for a walk.
But these "friends" she'd reportedly gone disc golfing with couldn't have been anyone special; Julie didn't even know them. While their names had been reported in the news, Julie hadn't recognized a single one of them. And none of them had been arrested or detained. They weren't, it appeared, friends of Angela's from her book clubs, her church, or the neighborhood. They weren't related to her.

For some strange reason, Angela had felt obligated to meet them for disc golfing. Odd.
The FBI had arrested Angela at the Boise ski resort and put her in jail. It had been in the news and not just locally. The networks all reported it in primetime, even without many details. All they needed was a sound bite. Then they'd utilize so-called experts to speculate and conjecture. The story stewed, a bare bone in water with little meat or fat. It looked like Angela would stay in jail, though, and details would remain scant. But Julie had to figure out if what they'd done to Angela was fair or, maybe, the better word was not fair, but just.

Angela's house, along with others, lined Collister Drive. The street itself originated someplace near downtown Boise, closer to Julie and Ron's house. From there, it headed north, passing by or through several subdivisions, eventually crossing Hill Road before wandering away from any semblance of a city or subdivision and up a foothills drainage.
Julie needed to feed Moochey, Angela's own rescued greyhound, while she was here. She let herself and Ptolemy in with a just-in-case key Angela had given her years ago. She turned off the security system, which Angela had bragged about and shown her how to work. Now Moochey greeted Julie happily at the door, but then saw Ptolemy and started growling. The two had never gotten along that well. "Moochey, it's okay," Julie said in a gentle, loving tone. "It's just me and Ptolemy." Then more sternly: "Ptolemy, shut up."

Pretty soon the two dogs had worked out their differences . . . mostly. Actually, what Julie finally did was let Ptolemy out the back door into Angela's fenced yard then put the dog-door gate down so he couldn't get back in. And Moochey started living up to her name, nose nudging Julie's hip and snotting her swinging hand with her nose as Julie walked toward the cabinet where the kibble and other dog supplies and treats were.
"You hungry, Moochey?"

No doubt the mutt was. Feeling neglected, too. Angela had always walked the dog daily, spoiling her good. Evenings, the two of them always sat together on Angela's leather couch, the greyhound curled up next to Angela, his front feet and head on her lap as Angela watched television or read. Sometimes Angela even read out loud to the pooch and discussed the book she was reading with Moochey.
Julie loved the fact that Moochey was so laid back. She exhibited no harsh, repetitive barking and yipping, no insane running back and forth, and no going all nutso like so many dogs did. Julie didn't like those kinds of dogs as much as Moochey and, now, Ptolemy.  She had long wanted to get her own rescue greyhound from the Denver racetrack, even before Angela had gotten Moochey. But Ron, he wouldn't have it, not at first. "Dogs are for hunting and belong outside." He'd insisted that they not have one in the house, and Julie wasn't going to leave a rescue dog outside, treated worse than it had been at the track.

So for several years Julie lived without a dog, always admiring the companionship Moochey provided Angela, hoping someday she'd have a hound to Velcro its nose to her hip. It was so unfair that she couldn't. But finally, Ron had relented. Well, relented wasn't quite the word. Ron had had an indiscretion, and Julie found out about it. Ron apologized and begged forgiveness, promising he'd never do it again. Julie had had reservations, but she'd always been taught to give people a second chance if it seemed like they were sincere. She hadn't been certain if Ron was, but he seemed to be. So she decided to give him another chance, just one more. Plus, it'd been the leverage needed to get Ptolemy. And then Ptolemy took care of ingratiating himself on Ron after that.
As Moochey scarfed up kibble, Julie returned to her thoughts on Angela's arrest and her need for more information about it. Then she noticed Angela's laptop sitting on the coffee table. She walked over and touched a key. It was on. When Julie touched the key, the computer flashed to life, displaying a blistering hot desktop. The background picture presented a violent sun, swirling in a caldron of fiery explosions, almost too searing to look at. Its "bing" logo had an orange dot above its "i".

Julie imagined hell might look like that from a comfortable distance, say from heaven or on one of those clouds with an angel and a harp. The thought, however, made Julie wonder if she should be snooping in Angela's private computer.
Well, there was no password protection, or Julie would've encountered it. But then again, Angela lived alone; she didn't normally need to protect her machine. She wasn't the type to carry the computer around in public. In fact, Angela didn't have much commerce in public. Primarily, there was home and work --- Angela was a research chemist for J.R. Simplot. And no one took laptops to book club or church.  So, in fact, a password would be a big inconvenience. She'd strangely installed and faithfully maintained a security system, however, even though she'd told Julie she'd never experienced break-ins.

Julie glanced at the operating system's taskbar to see Angela's shortcuts to important programs. That didn't seem too snoopy, she thought, unless there was one with a weird title like ISpy2010 or SPinahge. At least that'd provide critical information to perhaps consider. There were the typical icons: Internet Explorer, Audible Manager, and several others. Nothing exceptional but OmniPageProfessional17, which Julie simply didn't recognize. She'd Google it in a minute.  But now Moochey had finished her kibble and come to nose Julie's arm, to beg for a treat or an ear scratch. Julie smelled Purina on her breath. She tried ignoring the mutt, but it didn't work. The dog wiped its mouth on Julie's denims. Julie patted her and scratched her head. Finally, Moochey left and settled down with a big sigh on a padded matt on the floor near Julie and the computer.
Julie's eyes returned to the computer screen. She clicked the Start circle and checked the All Programs line, scrolling down its listings to get some idea of the programs loaded. Maybe she was looking for something like Evidence Eliminator, a program that claimed it could delete hidden information from a hard disk.  Snooping, but not too deeply so she thought she'd violate her friend's privacy. Julie lifted her fingers from the keyboard to rub her itchy eyes, thinking how ridiculous it'd be if that burning sun, which for her was a symbol of hell, she'd witnessed when Angela's computer had first came to life, had burned them. Computers connected people in the broadest sense. At the same time, they provide a hiding place.

Julie felt a bit uncomfortable, not from being in Angela's house --- she'd been Angela's guest often and told to feel at home --- but by messing with Angela's personal computer, where she could potentially enter her friend's private place. But Angela was sitting in jail. Maybe something here could help her, could at a minimum help Julie understand why Angela had gone disc golfing and beyond that, what'd had happened to make authorities believe she was a spy.
Julie hit escape and clicked the Word icon. The program came up, the Office 2007 version. She clicked the Office Button to see the listing of recent documents worked on. There were seventeen. The first was named favorite fantasy books.docx. Several more had similar naming convention, for science fiction, mysteries, whatnot. There was a file named past needs.docx. A few were named by date and a single name, mostly names Julie recognized: Angela's siblings --- all three of them --- Angela's pastor, members from her book groups. None were the names of the disc golfers mentioned in the news reports, however.

The doorbell rang.
It startled Julie, and she yelped.

Moochey barked just once, the common tack of greyhounds to bark once or twice.
Julie's heart quickened, her face flushed. Her hand pushed the laptop closed. She stood up and gawked out the window. A UPS truck was pulling away, so Julie went to the door, opened it, and found a package on the porch. It was the size of a large shoebox. She picked it up and brought it in. She put it on the kitchen counter, plopped herself on a bar stool, and read:

Queenie Townsville
c/o Angela Beckstrom
5980 N. Collister Drive
Boise, Idaho 83703
Queenie Townsville? It was not a name Julie could identify out as a friend or a relative of Angela's or even as one of the disc golfers mentioned in the news. She looked at the return address, one in the United Kingdom, an Albert Youknowme. Very funny. Phony.

She inspected the package for hints, but nothing provided a clue as to who the package was addressed to or really who it was really from. After Julie shook it --- it didn't weigh much and whatever was in it didn't make a noise --- she set it on the kitchen table and bent over and sniffed the package. It smelt like stale cigarettes, like whoever packaged it chain-smoked and had polluted its contents.
Julie stood and left the kitchen, returning to the sitting area where the computer was. She didn't go to it, however, but sat in a recliner opposite the one she had sat in to view the computer. She reached down and pulled the chair's leaver to recline. Her feet raised and she pushed back to relax and think. When did she ever have time to really think?

Then her cell phone rang. It was Ron. "Hi. What's up?"
"Where the hell are you? Weren't you supposed to pick up Tommy today? The school called me."

Dammit, it was Ron's turn to pick up the boy.  "Today's Tuesday, sweetie."
"It is? You sure? Hell, I thought it was Monday."

"Can you handle it? There's something I've got to deal with." Since Julie audited mostly small businesses or wealthy individuals for the IRS, she could cloak her activities under the guise of confidentiality. Julie picked up Tommy Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; Ron was supposed to Tuesdays, one day a week. Julie's mother picked Tommy up on Thursdays, usually, when she could be counted on. Typically her mother took him to piano lessons; something that instilled culture and sensitivity over against Ron's insistence of brutality and competition.
"I guess." He cleared his throat and belched. "I've been busy." Ron's unspoken suggestion was that Julie wasn't.

"Life is rough," she said.
"Don't be a shrew. Don't worry, I'll get him." Ron hung up.

How magnanimous, agreeing to do what he'd already committed to do. After all, Julie helped Tommy with homework too; Ron never did now, he had at one time but had stopped. She saw that Tommy got to almost all of his other activities now, too, even the competitive ones Ron insisted on, the ones he had started taking him to but then quit. Plus, Julie worked forty hours a week. Fortunately, her schedule was flexible, and she could work at home some of the time.
Ultimately, getting Ptolemy by overlooking Ron's infidelity and giving Ron another chance had been a bad decision. He hadn't cheated again, not that she knew of anyway. But he'd slacked off other ways. Julie should've gotten rid of Ron and gotten Ptolemy afterward. But she had wanted to make their marriage work; she wanted to be an optimist. Now, it looked as if a divorce was imminent. She started trying to put a nice spin on that.

She got up and fetched a NutriDent from Angela's dog cupboard with Moochey trailing every step. She went to the dog door and lifted up the gate. "Ptolemy," she called.
As soon as Ptolemy stuck his head in, Moochey growled. "Easy, girl," she said. "You want a treat, Moochey?" She held Ptolemy's collar, opened the door and tossed the Nylabone on the deck for Moochey, who went after it. She closed the door, still holding Ptolemy, and put the gate back in.

She returned to the recliner, the one with the computer. She'd think later. A revenue agent had to be inquisitive and snoop. She opened the lid and the monitor roused. Instead of a scorching sun, now the background showed a vibrant bird escaping an ice hole with three squirming fish in its beak. Bing.
Julie intended to find out everything she could about the package's return address and addressee, this Queenie Townsville person. She started Internet Explorer and went to work: clicking Tools, then the General tab, looking at Browsing history, seeing the box Delete browsing history on exit checked. So there was no browsing track to snoop. While Julie had been trained as an IRS sleuth, of sorts, especially relative to finances, her education didn't deal with this kind of digging into a dung heap.

The doorbell rang again. Shit. At least this time Julie didn't jump as much as she had before. She stood and looked out. This time an old lady stood on the porch. Julie went and opened the door.
"Hi," Julie said, "can I help you?"

"Who're you?" the old lady asked. "Are you a friend of Angela's?"
"Yeah, I am. So, you know Angela, too?"

"I'm her neighbor. Live two doors down, house with the detached garage. Saw your car and wondered what was going on. I saw in the news where Angela's a spy and they've stuck her in jail. You know anything about that?"
"Unh-unh. I'm just here to feed Moochey, her dog."

"Oh." The old woman giggled. "That skinny thing. Race dog." She looked back toward the road running down the middle of the gully. "Well, yesterday somebody else was here; they didn't answer the door when I rang the bell."
"They were inside?"

"Yeah. Spent about three hours and left. A guy and a gal. Younger-looking."
"You think they were cops?"

"Might of been authorities, I guess, but they didn't have official-looking hats that said FBI or anything."
"Wonder if they took anything?"

"Didn't seem to. I watched to see what they were doing. Their car was just a Toyota, I think, a light grey one, later model."
"A light bar or logo or anything?"

"Nothing to identify it as official I saw, no government plates. One of those mini-SUVs."
"Guy and gal, huh?" She seemed like a snoopy old sweetheart. Julie felt like asking if the old woman had seen any Frisbees in the back of the mini-SUV but didn't. "Did you know Angela well?"

"Hardly. Got her to feed my cat once when I had surgery. We didn't talk much, but she always seemed polite and was a good neighbor. Took care of her yard and never caused a ruckus. Hard to believe she's a spy; she didn't seem to ever go anyplace to do any spying. All she did is go to and from work, regular as days on the calendar, and to the grocery store."
Angela did more than just that: church, book clubs, dentist and doctor appointments, meet Julie for lunch or dinner, occasionally.

After the old woman left, Julie went back to the laptop and closed Internet Options and Googled Queenie Townsville. The first of 217,000 items said Auntie Queenie and staff at Queen's Hotel, Townsville. She opened it in a new tab, looked down the rest of the first page. Is Townsville in Queensland nice? caught her eye. She new-tabbed it, too. She checked the Auntie Queenie tab  but got The webpage cannot be found. She went back and chose Cached. It produced an old picture of the webpage from a few months before, a photograph of hotel maids from the Queen's Hotel in Townsville in 1922. Nothing. Next she checked the other tab, a Yahoo! UK & Ireland® Answers page. The question "I've got friends asking if they should stop in Townsville whilst in Queensland on vacation. What do you say?" produced various answers. They made it clear a city named Townsville existed in the state of Queensland in Australia. Julie knew enough to know it'd be in the upper right quadrant, possibly on coast by the Great Barrier Reef. One entry caught her eye: "Townsville in Queensland is not a very nice place. It is basically a 'forces town' i.e. the army & navy and families. I lived there for 3 years while my husband was in the Air Force & hated it every minute. I love Australia but would not recommend Townsville to anyone."
This was probably as much as Julie was going to find out about the return address and addressee on the package. It seemed even more obvious now that they were bogus, without significance. Perhaps the geographical location — in Queensland, Australia — and the fact that Townsville had military installations were meaningful, but that was a gut feeling. Julie always associated spying with the military.

Julie stood up and headed for Angela's landline telephone, for the portable handset on the kitchen counter. Julie planned to check for messages that'd been left and see if she could listen to them. She'd check to see who had recently called. At the very least, she hoped to get some numbers of recent callers.
Before Julie got halfway to the telephone, however, her own cell phone rang again. Not Ron again, she thought. I can't stand to talk to him right now. But it wasn't Ron; it was work, her boss, Mitchell Meacham. Julie wondered what he was calling about; she was off the clock, but maybe he didn't know that.

"I need you in the office," he said.
"Now?" she asked. Julie had such a flexible schedule that it was hard to keep track if she was on or off the clock. Mitch probably thought she was on. He didn't usually call otherwise.

"Yeah, now."
"But, you know, I'm off the clock."

"Come anyway. We'll put you on the clock. You have a problem with that?" Mitch was unusually curt.
"I guess not, but what for? Is something wrong?"

"I'll tell you when you get here. Hurry up; it's important." Mitch hung up before she could say or ask anything else.
Julie closed her cell phone and swore under her breath as she wondered what the hell was going on. What could be so important that Mitch wanted her to come to the office right now and wouldn't give her any idea what it was all about? She worked for the IRS, not for local law enforcement, the FBI, or CIA or something. Mitch, as far she recalled, had never expressed urgency in getting to the office quickly before, and he'd never been so vague about why she needed to come in; sometimes she wished he were more subtle.

She surveyed her personal situation.
No makeup. Her hair was a complete mess. After all, she'd just come to feed Moochey and check for intimations of why Angela was in jail. Her blue jeans, the ones with a hole in the knee and butt, and her "messed-up" t-shirt didn't qualify as proper office attire, not unless it was dress-down Friday, and it wasn't. Even then, it'd stretch every limit. Besides, she had Ptolemy with her. She couldn't leave the dog in her car or take him inside the federal building, although security would get a laugh if she tried. She couldn't risk going clear home to change and running into that damn monster, Ron. Plus, Mitch knew just where she lived — she'd hosted an office party Mitch'd had attended. He'd have little patience for her getting there slowly. Of course, she wasn't home, but at Angela's. Mitch didn't know that, and, anyway, coming from Angela's would add all of --- what? --- five minutes?

Well, Moochey was okay and could stay right here. She'd eaten now and was lying on her padded mat between the kitchen and the living area. She was on her back, her long greyhound legs sticking up like a dead cockroach. Her pose, a common one to the breed, always looked very awkward, most precarious and pretentious, and not at all lady-like.
Julie glanced out the window to check on Ptolemy. He'd found a spot to rest, also. His body spread out on a padded mat on the deck in the shade, and he looked clueless.

Julie went to the back door and, as carefully and as quietly as possible, removed the dog door gate. Now the two dogs could move in and out as they needed to. She removed the gate with care, however, hoping not to disturb them and cause a ruckus before she left. She hoped, when the two dogs later discovered that she had removed the gate, they wouldn't fight, but she was less worried about them getting into a spat than about Moochey having an accident in the house.
Julie slipped out the door and scanned the terrain, including the houses across the street and on both sides like she never had before. Funny what her friend's arrest did to make her extremely paranoid. She didn't see anybody out and about or peeking through their windows to watch her. She looked up and along the hills of the wash on both sides that ran behind the houses. Lots of sagebrush and weeds up there. The growth had mostly turned yellow with the heat and no rain. It was hot. Her obsession in looking up there seemed extreme, but this was about espionage.

She climbed in her RAV4 and started it up. As she pulled out of the driveway and headed down the road out of the wash, she noticed the old lady who'd come to the door. She was looking out her own window, a telephone to her ear, watching Julie.