Kage Baker had a terrifying confidence in my ability to solve problems. At least, it terrified me. The weight of her trust was enormous, and nothing ever seemed to shake it. She wasn’t much for changing her mind.
Of course, that confidence only extended to unusual problems. Weird things, unlikely screw-ups, improbable disasters – if it looked like it might require the Impossible Missions Force or superpowers to fix, she would hand it off to me with no doubt or misgivings. Strange noises in the middle of the night or inexplicable smells in the fridge were always my province. Dropped jelly jars or bugs on the living room wall were Kage’s.
She also had an unshakeable conviction that I was inept at ordinary problems. Mind you, there was plenty of evidence to support her idea – I have a history, recounted gleefully in the family, of falling prey to any number of perfectly plain difficulties. Vanilla problems, you know, that when confronted by me turned into Bloodthirsty Atlantean Fish Berry Ripple. With sprinkles.
I cannot be trusted to go out and get extra rolls for holiday dinners, for instance – I drive into things. I cannot paint anything without ending up with paint in anatomically unlikely places – under my hair, through my clothes. If there are colds or influenza going through the household, I will be immune and nurse the victims; but what I do catch will be something on the lines of unknown fungal infections and bacteria no one has ever seen before in a human.
I’m great at first aid. Blood, vomit, the various appalling permutations of mucous – ha, none of that fazes me! However, an insect within 6 feet of me and I have a meltdown. I mistook a dust bunny for a spider last night, and roused half the household to rescue me. A bug on the other side of the windshield will make me whimper; inside the car and I go hysterical.
One summer in Pismo, we had a major infestation of walking stick insects, those favourites of grammar school terrariums: and the buggers kept walking on me. I liked A Bug’s Life, and Slim was probably my favourite character – but the urbane insect with David Hyde Pierce’s voice is a far cry from a 3-inch long monster perching on one’s shoulder, staring with wet, compound eyes … Kage had to calm and rescue me repeatedly, once even guiding our car to the breakdown lane of the freeway while I sobbed in abject terror. She serenely dispatched the thing with a rolled up newspaper.
Thus, Kage took care of the everyday cockups. I got the weird stuff. The night the hot water heater tried to explode (they whistle like demented tea kettles, BTW), the many times we broke down on empty roads or sections of her manuscripts vanished into the aether – those were mine.
So I think Kage would be proud of me – but unsurprised – that I have won these initial battles with Medi-Cal. After all, I won similar fights on her behalf; and even though we lost in the end, the process could have been much worse. Would have been, I am sure, had I not learned how to inveigle my way through the mine fields and thorn mazes of bureaucracy. She was so very sure I could win the paperwork fights that I did. Amazing.
You know what else is amazing? I don’t remember a single bug attack while Kage was sick. No spiders rappelling down from interstellar space, no mutant crickets hiding in the drapes. No mystery crayfish doing ghastly Tai Chi on the front walk … and yes, I know they aren’t bugs, but they look like them. And what were they doing scattered over our front lawn that one spring, anyway? We never found out. But somehow, Kage kept me safe from bugs until I moved back in with Kimberly – whose brace of cats and valiant Corgi obligingly eat them for me.
So, I’m primed and ready, Fate. I’ve batted back your first volley of impossible crap. My shields are active and I’m on the offensive. As long as the State of California hasn’t hired any cockroaches, I will win.