Abhorring Vacuum

Kage Baker – on those rare occasions when she found herself with no plots or ideas burning in her brain – would lie back in her wingback armchair and moan, “Tell me stuff. Give me ideas. Inspire me …”

“How the hell am I supposed to do that?” I would grump, usually tangled up in some fiendishly difficult knitting stitch.

“I dunno.” Kage would wave her hands in the air like sock puppets. No one could be as boneless as Kage. “Caper and sing. Tell me jokes. Has something weird been dug up anywhere? Go look through your nerdy science magazines and find me an anomaly.”

“Oh, screw you,” I would wittily reply.

And the afternoon or evening would proceed on a gentle tide of bickering. Ancient disagreements might surface, and the many crimes of adolescence. (“Remember that time you ate all my chocolate-covered cherries?” “It was an emergency. My metabolic theobromos was dropping!”) We would discuss favourite old candies – Kage could lecture on old candies for hours. We’d discuss old movies and television shows – theme songs: see the candy comment. Kage never forgot anything and could sing those for hours. Hours, I tell you.

I would explain planetary rotation and the precession of the equinoxes, with balls of yarn. Kage would explain how to mix Phthalo blues and greens to try and get transparency; which is hard in acrylics. I don’t think either one of us listened much to the other, except for the pleasant  murmur of a familiar voice … God He knows, I would give quite a lot now, to just have her low, cinnamon-and-honey voice in the background while I try to write …

This is not happening, though; not even in my mind. You might note, Dear Readers, the relative lateness of the hour – the day has rolled on by me, with any energy or inspiration that might have been garnered oblivious to my desperate, grasping hands. Also, apparently coated liberally with KY, ’cause I sure haven’t gotten anything. The news is full of fools and malice. The weather went hazy and dull today; no interesting neighborhood activities or sounds aside from some mysterious tumult down by the nearby railroad tracks that sounds like someone was demolishing a piano. It went on for hours, though, which I don’t think one could manage with an actual piano – on the other hand, I can’t imagine what would make such boinging and zinging and tormented harp-sounds as were coming from the tracks …

We had some brief excitement at twilight, when it was revealed that a Mommy skunk had littered in the garage – she was bringing her little ones out for their first excursion into our newly de-forested back yard. Apparently skunks, like true suburbanites, also prefer a nicely clipped lawn to a jungle …  and I must admit, they are illegally cute. But we’ve had to put the baby-gate over the dog door now, partly because Kim doesn’t want skunks in her kitchen but mostly because the Corgi wants to go out and herd the little things.

That way lies madness. Also, bathing a traumatized Corgi in Coca Cola. Which is not as entertaining as you might imagine.

It would have been be a great night for brain-storming. We could have turned on the Lava Lamps and the battery operated candles (earthquake safe!), and I could knit something simple in the breathing twilight while Kage sang all the verses of the theme to Robin Hood. The good old British one with Richard Greene, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson and Wildroot Hair Oil … which didn’t strike us as funny in our childhoods, but certainly does now.

Ah, me. Good memories. And memories of memories, of the times Kage reconstructed some part of our youth with the shadows of her hands on the living room wall. We always found something to talk about; and eventually some idea would lodge like a multi-coloured burr in her mind. And she’d fall silent, and then the next time she got up for a fresh glass of Coke, she’d drift off to the computer … and shortly the keys would start to sound, faster and faster, like rain on thirsty ground.

And my God, the things that bloomed!

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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18 Responses to Abhorring Vacuum

  1. Bloomed… my pre-order of The Best of Kage Baker finally arrived today. It’s a bouquet, and a banquet. The illustrations are wonderful, gorgeous. I’m happy, I’m sad. It’s beautiful.

  2. Kate says:

    Oh, Allison, I’m glad you like the illustrations! J.K. Potter was Kage’s favourite of all her illustrators. And she loved getting interior illos – she always felt the only REAL books were those with pictures in ’em.

  3. Elaine says:

    I’ve had a tough day today, emotionally speaking, but the mental image of a corgi trying to herd skunks made me laugh out loud. So, thank you for that. Also, no telling what the noises were down there. I lived across the street from a construction site for several years (amazing, how long it takes to put an addition on a university library), and the variety of sounds, some musical and some not, that emerged from that process was absolutely amazing.

    • Kate says:

      So sorry you’ve had a bad day, Elaine – but I am pleased if the comic stylings of Dylan the Corgi gave you a laugh. He so desperately wanted to get out there and round the baby skunks up!

  4. Medrith says:

    I read recently that some silly couple wanted the Robin Hood theme played at their wedding. The one from the moronic Kevin Costner movie. I don’t even remember the music from it. But I will bet a large sum of whatever that it was NOT what was played. The band must have been our age, they played “Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen…”

    • Kate says:

      “Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his Merry Men …” I hope the band did play that. It would have been cool. And you know what? I’ve been wracking my brains trying to remember the theme from the Kevin Costner monstrosity, and not a glimmer can I get! While I do recall this. There’s a moral there, Medrith, and I suspect it’s more than that we are getting old.

  5. ‘Feared by the bad, loved by the good, Robin Hood, Robin Hood’.

    Feel free to call when you need old tv songs.

    “Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, greenest state in the Land of the Free, raised in the woods so he knew every tree…”

    OH, NO! the earworms….

    I have no problem envisioning Dylan herding the skunks. Our dog Blue is part Corgi and part Terrier, so she herds us and that cats without much mishap., No so with rodent-type animals. She herds the opossums into a corner then kills them.

    • Kate says:

      Mary Lynn – living with Kage was one constant ear worm, lemme tell ya. However, she remembered such *interesting* things that it was worth it.

      Dylan has no emnity towards skunks whatsoever – which is the problem. He *likes *them, but they don’t know that and when he gets too close … tragedy. He doesn’t seem to have ever encountered an opossum where we’ve seen, but doubtless it would have provided an unsatisfactory herding experience. Raccoons are his main prey: because once he scared one into dropping its prize from the neighbor’s garbage – most of a salmon steak. He ate it with glee, and is apparently now convinced that raccoons harbour goodies and can be mugged.

      Kathleen kbco.wordpress.com

  6. Neassa says:

    It takes stubborn optimism to think a raccoon makes a good mugging victim!

    • Neassa, Corgis and Corgi/terriers have no fear of larger animals–none. Their job is to herd cattle and/or kill rats. A raccoon just looks like an overlarge kitty. And the dogs are more than willing to mug cats for food treats. And stubborn…did I mention stubborn, they’re Welsh, after all.
      I’m sure Kathleen has many Corgi tales she could tell.

    • Kate says:

      Neassa – it was the salmon steak. It warped his little Corgi mind, and now he always wonders if *this* raccoon is also hiding treasure. See, he didn’t notice – when the raccoon dropped its enormous fish slice and bolted – that I was behind him threatening the raccoon with a broom … and so his already insane courage went up half a hundred notches.

      Believe me, a Corgi knows no fear when protecting his flock or nabbing food.

      Kathleen kbco.wordpress.com

  7. Medrith says:

    Kate it was indeed that Robin Hood theme. Somewhat less than romantic- although if I recall correctly, Richard Greene was a real cutie.

  8. Mark says:

    Speaking of mugging, I suspect you would appreciate this video….

    • Kate says:

      That’s wonderful video. Octopodi are fasinating! I’d have worried, personally, though – when the octopus was willing to trade up from the camera to the weapon …

      Kathleen kbco.wordpress.com

  9. There is a loopole is Californias draconian skunk law. If you find one on your property, you can legally keep it! Can you please snag me a cute one? I will name him Petey!

    • Kate says:

      Dre – how does one “snag” a skunk? I guess, a humane trap … at the moment I have 5 – two adults, one of them simply enormous (my gunslinger skunk, I think) and three babies. The babies are impossibly cute, I must admit: tiny, cunningly made little fur balls. I had no idea that California has Draconian skunk laws, though. I always figured that if one developed skunks, one was just sort of forced into a truce with ’em … there are a few things that will encourage them to stay away from some area (spraying a mix of bleach and piss works pretty well) but they are pretty much fearless. Luckily, they eat a lot of garden pests – so if they can be persuaded not to gas the Corgi, we’re trying to just live with them. But if I do snag a cutie, I will save him for you.

      They infinitely preferable to the raccoons!

  10. Carolyne says:

    The Robin Hood theme caroming around my grey matter was bad enough, but now it has been supplanted by the Mission Pac jingle. Aaaiiiieeee!

    • Kate says:

      Oh, Mission Pac! Man, those commercials used to drive us nuts when we were little! All those fruits looked so much more delicious than the (identical) stuff in the kitchen … we wanted them desperately, and Mamma wisely wouldn’t buy them for us. You’re right, though, the jingle is weirdly persistent.

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