state of the fictionette address
So now that it looks like this blogging thing might actually happen more than once every other month, it's about time I reported on the Current State of the Friday Fictionette Project.
As you know, Bob, the Friday Fictionette Project is a short-short stories subscription service powered by Patreon. Every first through fourth Friday, I upload a new weird little piece of fiction. Patrons pledging $1/month can access it in ebook form; Patrons pledging $3/month can additionally access it as an audiobook. People who aren't pledging any dollars at all can enjoy the monthly Fictionette Freebie, which is one of each month's fictionettes made free for all the world to enjoy.
I've been doing this since August 2014, so there are a lot of freebies in the archive by now. The incentive to subscribe with actual money is kinda low. I am clearly not great at this monetizing thing. That's OK. I've been doing this more to hold myself to a deadline and motivate myself to Write More Things. And sometimes a fictionette turns into a reprint sale (example one! example two!) or gets rewritten into a full-length story suitable for submission as an original piece. So it's cool. It's all worthwhile.
Problem is, I'm also not that great at time management. For a very brief and glorious few weeks last year I was ahead of schedule. That fell apart around September, and I still haven't recovered. It's been like one thing after another since then. Heck, it's been multiple things simultaneously every twenty-four hours since Election Day. You don't need me to tell you that. Long and the short of it is, I'm slightly more than a month behind. To be very precise, I'll be uploading tomorrow the release nominally scheduled for December 18, 2020.
My goal after that is to upload the Dec. 25 release later on this week, choose a December Fictionette Freebie to unlock, then give you the December Fictionette Round-up Post. Then I hope to do two releases a week through the month of February so as to be all caught up by March. Past performance suggests this will not happen. But, hey! It might. It's a goal. Nothing wrong with setting a goal. Another of my goals was to get back to daily blogging, or at least several-times-a-week blogging. And here we are. See how that works?
Anyway, meet me back here tomorrow (I mean it! tomorrow!) and we'll see how it's going. Til then!
procrastination pasta carbonara and follow-up fried rice
Because I am very pleased with my kitchen prowess right now, and also because I'm not terribly eager to do the writing task I'm supposed to be doing, you get some food blogging outta me. (Not that blogging isn't also something I'm supposed to be doing. But I'm not supposed to do it before the other stuff. Nevertheless, here we are.)
We begin with pasta carbonara.
Up until recently, I'd only ever done the mock carbonara thing involving heavy whipping cream. This is due to a long-standing horror of egg sauce failure. My last attempt at cooking eggs low and slow over direct heat with the aim of a thick sauce/broth was TNH's bacon and egg soup recipe, which attempt resulted, despite my doing everything right I swear, in something better described as bacon and egg-drop soup.
But I had a bunch of bacon ends from Lucky's and I was determined to give proper carbonara a try for once.
I was emboldened by this recipe, which calls for egg yolks and not whole eggs. That right there lowered both the perceived difficulty level and the psychological barrier for me. I mean, I know I've done OK low-and-slowing egg yolks. Witness my favorite eggnog recipe. Witness my success with lemon curd. Of course, neither of those was a direct heat situation; I put the egg yolks in one of my big chunky porcelain tea mugs and set that inside a sauce pan: instant double boiler. Nevertheless, I felt this might work.
But I noped right the hell out of attempting to cook the egg yolks via the residual heat of the cooked pasta alone. That was raising the stakes way too high. I absolutely do not need to choose between "oh no, the egg yolks aren't cooked enough" and "oh no, the pasta's getting over cooked." So here is what I did instead. It took longer than the vaunted 30 minutes, but it was foolproof, and I value foolproof when I am the fool in question.
- Crack open your favorite variety of Annie's Macaroni and Cheese. I favor Shells & Alfredo for this, but any of 'em'll do. (Yes, I know I said "proper carbonara." Shush.) Set the cheese packet aside for later. You will use it.
- Cook the noodles al slightly more dente than you usually would. This gives you some wiggle room at the end of the recipe. It also means you don't have to worry about "stopping the cook." You might reserve some of the pasta water when you drain the noodles, as per the Dinner Then Dessert recipe linked above. I admit I always forget to do this. It's OK. The starch in the Annie's cheese packet makes up for it.
- Take that pot you used to cook the pasta and stick some sort of smoked/preserved pork product in it. I've been using the half-pound package of bacon ends you can get from Lucky's, which I only discovered when I began shopping their catalog online for curbside pick-up. (Thanks, pandemic!) Several slices of fatty bacon would work well too. Cook it over medium-low heat until it's crispy and has given up the grease.
- While you're waiting for your pork fat to render, separate three eggs. Set the whites aside for other uses. (I will give you a suggestion for this. See below.) Whisk the yolks together with the cheese package from your Annie's box, another good handful of grated parmesan, salt and pepper and whatever else you like along those lines (nutmeg? mmmaybe! cayenne? most definitely!), and I guess that's it. I tried to get away with two egg yolks; they got lost in the powder. Three egg yolks still gave me more of a thick paste then I wanted, so I splashed in some sherry just to make sure.
- Bacon done? Great! Take that pan off the fire. Scoop out the bacon with a slotted spoon and set it aside to cool; eventually, when it's cool enough to handle, you'll dice it up. For now, take your quantity of frozen peas and dump them into the grease. Stand back. It'll spit. It'll also cool down your bacon grease, making it safe for egg yolk. Slowly combine the egg yolk mixture with the bacon grease and peas mess, whisking all the while. With luck, this should form a sauce, and not that dreaded soup of fried egg lumps that terrifies us so. Add back the diced bacon.
- Now here's the heresy: Put that mixture back on the stove. Cook it over very low heat. (The pasta is not involved in this step. The pasta is sitting patiently in the colander, waiting its turn.) Stir the sauce a lot. Watch over it closely until you're confident it's thickening and not turning into particles. If it's too thick, add reserved pasta water, or more sherry, or milk, or cream, or any combination that suits your tastes, to loosen it up. Over time, as you move out of the danger zone, you can cautiously increase the heat and maybe not keep an eye on it every second.
- When the sauce is just on the edge of a visible simmer--like, with tiny bubbles starting to break the surface--and it's the thickness you want, it is done. Take it off the stove, add the pasta, stir it about 'til all the pasta is nicely coated, and devour it all in one sitting. You deserve it.
Note: My carbonara sauce keeps coming out distinctly brown. I blame the burnt bits of bacon. Also the rich orange yolks of the eggs I get from 63rd Street Farm (they're selling eggs throughout the winter this year, drive up and take 'em out the ice chest and put your money in the jar). This is why I keep adding cream and/or milk even though the use of egg yolks should obviate the need for cream or milk; it corrects the color a bit.
Suggestion for those egg whites: Use them in fried rice.
I follow the method laid out here and it has not steered me wrong yet. Today the rice was the leftover fried rice from last night's Golden Sun delivery, which means I had twice fried rice, which was fine. The bacon came from the latest Wild Pastures 10lb chicken-and-pork box (I was out of Lucky's bacon ends by now). The veg content included some cabbage I needed to use up, along with the usual handful of diced, rinsed salted veg from the everlasting frozen bag of preserved salted Chinese vegetables I've been slowly working my way through over the years.
Key points of Dwyer's method include the light soy sauce towards the end of the fry and the stirring in of the fresh green onions once it's off the heat. Those two elements of the method should be followed faithfully. (If you can't find light soy sauce where you shop, welp, you do what you gotta do. "Light" here means a specific flavor and color; it has nothing to do with diets or with sodium content.) But I can assure you that the result did not suffer one bit from substituting three egg whites for two whole eggs.Eat it all up with a spoon.
And now, I suppose, I should go do the writing I'm really supposed to be doing. Until later!
first publications and appearances for the new year
If I'm being honest, my initial impulse is to announce these things in a manner something like this:
WHEEEEEEEE TWO ACCEPTANCES IN ONE WEEKEND and OMG I SOLD A STORY TO AN ABSOLUTE DREAM MARKET AAAAAAAAAA!!!!! I'M GONNA FAINT--
but that seems unprofessional. All the authors I admire tend instead to calmly and professionally post matter-of-fact announcements about where you can find their writing and/or hear them read their writing. So I'm going to try to be a professional about this.
"Apotheosis" (poem) to be reprinted in The Future Fire - "Apotheosis" was originally published in the Summer Solstice 2019 issue of Eternal Haunted Summer. It was the first poem I wrote, and the first poem I published, after a poem drought of about twenty-five years. (I really don't know why I spent so much time not poeming. It seems rather silly of me in hindsight.) It will now be the first of my poems to be reprinted.
When will it be out? Current rough estimate is April. Emphasis on "rough." Might have a firmer estimate in a week or so. Stay tuned!
"Survival, After" (short story) to be published in Apex Magazine - This is where I start hyperventilating. Apex! Effing! Magazine! *wheeze* After I got the acceptance letter, I spent the rest of the evening emitting screams and other strange noises at random intervals, startling the bunny and making myself hoarse. It's a good thing John wasn't home at the time. I was insufferable.
And this story! I love this weird little story with all of my heart. To have it finally find a home--and for that home to be Apex! Effing! Magazine!
It began as a 750-word entry in a Codex contest, where it fared relatively well. (Codex contests are the source of a not insignificant portion of my published works. Codex is made of awesome.) Then it sat around in the "I really should revise this" pile until Shimmer Magazine announced its imminent closure and kicked me in the butt. But of course my time management is on point (that was sarcasm) and so I barely touched it until deadline day, when I pulled a five-hour forced march of panic and despair to create and at last submit the new 3,500-word draft. As history shows, it did not get accepted on that outing. The editor, who'd once sent me a revise-and-resubmit request which did not ultimately result in a publication (hey, it happens), sent me the kindest and most wistful of personal rejections, regretting that we would not get to work together on a Shimmer story after all. I regretted that too. But hey, now I had a new story ready to be submitted to all the other places!
I submitted it to twelve of the other places over the following ten to twelve months. And then I submitted it to Apex. And here we are.
This, too, I do not yet have a firm date for. I'm told it'll likely be in Issue 124, maybe 123. That's just an early estimate, though. As scheduling firms up, I'll let you know.
I will be featured in an upcoming episode of The Story Hour - One of many examples of how the pandemic is why we can have nice things, The Story Hour began as a way to pierce our shut-in, isolated bubbles with live story-sharing. They put out a call on Twitter recently for published authors who might want to participate, and, as it happens, I've had some things published recently that I'd quite enjoy reading to a live audience. So I volunteered.
Of course I had to go and choose two stories which both make me cry at the end. I knew that already, but then I did a practice read-through in order to get a concrete idea of how much time each of them takes to read, and I found out it's worse than I thought. Well. I'm just going to have to practice a lot until I get better at holding it in, or until I've read these stories enough times to have worn out the effect.
The Story Hour airs live on Facebook and Zoom every Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM PST (so 8:00 PM here in Boulder, Colorado), and if you miss an episode live you can listen to its recording via Facebook. This one I have a date for! Unless something changes, I'll be reading on May 5, 2021. It's a ways out, but I'll remind you as we get closer.
And that is my first Upcoming Author Appearances and Publications post of 2021! Ta-da!
what all of mine got published in hell year
- 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 22 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 34 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 100 words (if poetry, lines) long
Just a short note today, because my day started late and went slowly and now I'm tired. But there is Actually Writing content, so yay for that.
Way back in April, I woot-wooted over having a poem newly accepted: "The Ascent of Inanna", originally a short-short then reimagined as a 22-line poem, was purchased by Dreams & Nightmares for publication in Issue 116, then-upcoming in September 2020. I am happy to report that my contributor's copy reached me safely despite this year's postal wonkiness, and it has been added to my Happy Shelf. While I wish I could just give you a link you could click to go read the poem (and the rest of the issue), there's something kinda fantastic, in an old-school way, about having a copy I can hold with pages I can riffle through. (Exceedingly affordable copies are available for purchase from the editor at the link above.)
Captain Holland, of course, has demonstrated a predilection for chewing on things made of paper. To keep the production of the above photo tragedy-free, I put my copy of the magazine inside the clear-sleeve front cover of a three-ring binder.
I am reminded by my colleagues on Twitter that it's time to make Awards Eligible posts. That is, to list all the things I had published this year, so that you can go read them and, if you wish, nominate them for awards. The very thought makes all the brain-weasels in my addled pate rear up and holler, "Who the hell do you think you are, suggesting that people nominate your drivel for awards? The nerve! The effrontery! The very idea! Hmph." So, OK, here is a list of things I had published this year, so that you can go read them. If you wish. The end. OK? *Nervously glances at brain-weasels* OK. (And I'm only including the word and/or line count to give you an idea of how much of a time investment reading each involves.)
"The Rarest of Prey" in Daily Science Fiction (102 words)
"One Story, Two People" in Community of Magic Pens, print anthology, Atthis Arts (2600 words)
"The Mardi Gras Tree" in Eternal Haunted Summer (34 lines)
"The Ascent of Inanna" in Dreams & Nightmares, print journal, see above (22 lines)
"The Soup Witch's Funeral Dinner" in ep. 431 of Cast of Wonders (980 words)
I do not think that reprints are award-eligible. But this is not an Awards Eligible list. It is a list of stuff I had published in 2020, that's all. So "Soup Witch" belongs on that list.
So now I have fulfilled my promise to blog about Actually Writing "tomorrow" and thus may go to bed with a clear conscience. Huzzah! (There'll be more in days to come, of course; this was all I had the oomph for posting tonight.)
in which we reestablish communications with a winter edition pandemic variant status update
Hello, neglected blog! I haven't posted to you since, what, early November? And we've still got a pandemic on. Even with a vaccine just around the corner, we're gonna be in pandemic mode for a while. So let's talk a little about how this whole pandemic thing has changed winter in Chez LeBoeuf-Little.
The big change is, we don't get to host our annual Winter Solstice All-Night Open House & Yule Log Vigil. Which admittedly isn't the blow felt by, say, Average American Household not getting to hold Extended Family Christmas. But it's still a shame. I like cooking metric tons of seasonal food and then getting surprised by who winds up coming over at three in the morning. I like sharing my eclectic Pagan traditions with my friends and neighbors. I would have enjoyed the heck out of introducing Holland to our guests (although Holland may not have enjoyed it; he can be skittish around new people.) It's a sad thing. But it's a necessary thing. I accept the necessary sad thing.
And it's not like I can't fix myself midwinter pie, tomato-orange soup, and a pitcher of the world's best egg nog ("world's best" because my friend's recipe is amazing, not because I'm particularly good at making egg nog). But there'll be no one but me in the house to consume them (none of the above are to John's taste), so I'll have to make somewhat less than a metric ton.
On that note, there won't be a fruitcake this year. That, too, seemed like a lot of food to make for only myself to eat. Usually about half the cake gets sliced up and mailed to friends and family around the country and a couple outside the country, but again, pandemic. I'm just not sure about the wisdom of producing foodstuffs with my unverified and unprofessional bare hands to be sent out into the world for others to eat at this particular juncture. Maybe I'm overthinking it; there are no known cases of anyone catching the novel coronavirus via food. But wouldn't it suck to be the first? More realistically, shopping for bulk dried fruits and nuts is kind of fraught right now. Whole Foods shut down its bulk food zone and replaced it with an Amazon Prime delivery staging area. Lucky's North reopened their bulk aisle, and they made gloves and hand sanitizer available to shoppers in that aisle, and no one uses them but me. Possibly an exaggeration, but after the third time cheerfully chirping at a random fellow customer, "Oh, they want us to use gloves! They're over there," I get this strong impression.
So. No fruitcake. No party. But hey, no superspreader behavior, either, so ultimately it's a win.
One nice change was that John was able to come with me to Avon this year. Usually he can't; it would mean time off from work, and generally he's used up most of his vacation time with gaming conventions by now. But this year 1. no gaming conventions, and 2. he's working from home every day. So there was no reason he couldn't work out of our room at the Sheraton Mountain Vista.
So we went. We bundled ourselves into the moving bubble that is our Chevrolet Volt, we wore our masks and used hand sanitizer on our way to check into the hotel, we used sanitizer wipes to extra-special sterilize the luggage cart that hotel staff had probably already sterilized, and we brought enough food from home that we didn't need to visit the grocery but once late in the week. And then we proceeded to work and play more or less like we do at home, in isolation but with a different selection of scenic views.
It was great. We cooked each other meals and also explored our take-out and delivery options. We watched some good TV. We read some good books. I skated around Lake Nottingham a few times because the weather was amazing. Meanwhile, Avedan sent us pictures of Holland being adorable for her. (Avedan apparently does not count as new people. Holland was comfortable enough around her to entertain himself by giving her sass with both barrels. He was glad to see us when we got home, but I suspect he did not miss us.)
"But Niki," I hear you say, "this is the actually writing blog. After a hiatus of more than a month, aren't you going to blog about the actually writing?" Yes! I shall. Writing has been Actually Happening. It's glorious. But about that, more tomorrow. This post is long enough already!
the turning of the year brings more poetry to your ereader
- 14 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 22 words (if poetry, lines) long
I've spent most of October running as fast as I could to stay only marginally behind, which is why blogging didn't happen. Blogging is kinda low priority. Except I really shouldn't let more time pass before announcing this:
"Reasonable Accommodations", my sonnet about a were-deer in corporate hell, will be included in the Winter 2021 issue of Departure Mirror Quarterly. Look for it in January!
Departure Mirror Quarterly is a brand-new magazine of speculative fiction and poetry. Its content is meant to reflect the belief that, in the words of editor Arthur Robert Tracy IV, science fiction and fantasy "is a genre that transports us out of our reality while giving us a medium to reflect on our reality and to consider what can and should change. Itís both a departure from and a mirror on reality. It's a Departure Mirror."
I am honored that they considered my poem a good fit with that philosophy.
The first issue, Fall 2020, is live and available in three ebook formats (PDF, EPUB, MOBI). You can download it for free from this page here. Its table of contents is sparkling with gems, some bittersweet, some uplifting, all well worth your time, eyeballs, and brain-space. And do spread the word! Even in the best of times, brand new publications live or die by word of mouth, and COVID-19 has put its thumb on the "die" side of pretty much every scale (except maybe for Zoom futures, if Zoom futures are a thing). So download yourself a copy and tell all your SF-loving friends to do the same!
Meanwhile, I see by the editor's blog that Dreams & Nightmares #116 (the issue that includes my poem "The Ascent of Inanna") has been printed and subscriber copies have hit the mail. If you are not a subscriber, you might consider becoming one. A six-issue subscription is $25 to North American addresses and $30 elsewhere, and a lifetime subscription is $90 wherever you are.
In other news, I am still two weeks behind on the Friday Fictionette schedule, so there will be no October round-up just yet. I will be scrambling to catch up for the foreseeable future. That notwithstanding, I do plan to participate in National Novel Writing Month, after my fashion; but more on that in another post. Good night!
shilling for September
- 979 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,357 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,038 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,380 words (if poetry, lines) long
Check it out: it's a Friday Fictionette roundup, two weeks late. Obviously I couldn't post a roundup until all the fictionettes it was rounding up went live; the fourth didn't go live until Monday. In related news, the Friday Fictionette for October 2 will be going live tomorrow. Everything's two weeks late.
I can't entirely blame this on the awful, rotten week in September when Gemma died. I mean, that didn't help. It happened on a Wednesday, and it shut me down entirely until the following week. But I was already a few days behind and scrambling to catch up when it happened. And it turns out that not writing, even for the very best of reasons, is habit-forming.
So here we are.
The good news is, October is a month with a fifth Friday. That's a week when time stands still, at least for fictionette purposes, and I'll have extra time to catch up.
Here, then, is the list of Friday Fictionettes
posted in scheduled for September.
Obligatory explanation, for those just tuning in: The Friday Fictionette Project is a Patreon-powered minifiction subscription service. Patrons at the $1/month level get a new short-short story-like object every first through fourth Friday in any of several homebrew ebook editions (html, pdf, epub, mobi); Patrons at the $3/month level also get the joy of having me read it aloud to them while my Dell Inspiron so-called gaming laptop's fan whines in the background. (Audacity's noise reduction filter is miraculous.)
There are a couple tiers after that which involve a physical object in your mailbox, but they are (1) limited edition such that only one more slot remains in each tier, and (2) even more behind schedule than the ebook and audio releases. (I just typed out and illustrated Page 1 of one of the December 2019 Fictionette Artifacts, to be perfectly honest with you. My two Patrons at the $5 level are exceedingly patient, and I appreciate it.)
Meanwhile, one fictionette per month gets released as a Fictionette Freebie;"Hardly St. Francis" is the Fictionette Freebie for September 2020. Also free are the Monday Muse posts, where I share the writing prompt associated with the upcoming fictionette (they all start as freewriting from a prompt) and also some random news from my life, writing and otherwise. (By popular demand, rabbit news predominates.)
So that's the September 2020 Friday Fictionette Roundup. If intrigued, do click through and check it out.
In other news, which I will babble about thoroughly in upcoming posts:
- I'm taking a Carnegie Center remote writing class, because the pandemic is why we can have nice things;
- Thinking about writing is too writing, and so are long walks;
- What with NaNoWriMo coming up, I'll be diving back into the godawful novel draft in an attempt to make it a wee bit less awful, or, failing that, make its awfulness somewhat less godly;
- Holland continues in good health and is currently licking the sofa cushions.
only bummer is no one gives you an I VOTED sticker
So here's a thing we did this past weekend: We voted.
John and I have had the pleasure of living in two different states that conduct their elections primarily by mail: Oregon, and now Colorado. The way it works is, if you're a registered voter, you get one. You don't have to ask. You don't have to sign up for it. You don't have to jump through any hoops. Be registered to vote when October rolls around, and a ballot shows up in your mailbox about three weeks before election day.
In the Before Times, when people fearlessly gathered in public knowing they risked no more than catching a cold, we had a tradition. We'd take our ballots out to BeauJo's for delicious Colorado Style Pizza. (After the Boulder location closed, we went to the one in Longmont, or found a different restaurant closer to home. As long as it had wifi and electrical outlets, it was golden.) We'd arrive, place our food orders, then break out the laptops. Once we'd filled out our ballots to our satisfaction and sealed them in their envelopes according to the instructions, we high-fived and then settled down to a celebratory video game marathon. Eventually we'd roll out of there, full and happy and tired and proud of ourselves, and head home--making one quick stop at the Boulder County Clerk & Recorder Office to deposit our ballots in the drop-box. And that's how Chez LeBoeuf-Little votes in Colorado, give or take a pandemic.
The routine was pretty much the same this election, with two important differences:
- We didn't let the ballots sit around for a week before voting them. We turned those suckers around overnight.
- And we voted them at the kitchen table over delivery from Curry 'n' Kebob.
That's it. That's the story. We voted, and you should too. The end.
on becoming a little wonder
And now, a more cheerful post: My story, "The Soup Witch's Funeral Dinner," is live at Cast of Wonders!
It's one half of Episode 431, "Little Wonders 27 - Old Ladies". The other half of the episode is C. M. DiGirolamo's "Grandma Geraldine Sees a Dragon," a story that alternates effortlessly between the comic and the numinous. I enjoyed it very much. And I was surprised to see this was her Cast of Wonders debut, too; I was sure I recognized her name. A quick internet search jogged my memory: I'd read her excellent and moving "Monster-Killer" at Daily Science Fiction.
I'm so pleased and proud about this publication! Adam Pracht does a gorgeous job narrating my story, unhurried and understated and matter-of-fact, the better to sneak that punch to your heart in at the end. I'm envious of how he manages to get through the last line--I can't get through the last line. I tried. I had to pause and take several deep breaths and I still choked up. (It's sort of embarrassing.) (What's also embarrassing is how wordy that earlier version at Patreon is. Ouch.)
Host Katherine Inskip has lovely things to say about my story. I'm still blushing.
Please go check it out, and make sure check out other recent episodes as well! Cast of Wonders has long been a favorite podcast of mine, and I'm beyond thrilled to get to be part of their line-up.
my heart has joined the thousand
I've been putting off writing this post. Partly that's because I didn't want my first post in two weeks to be a total downer. But mostly because I know I'm going to cry while writing it, and I'm tired of crying.
Gemma passed away last week, and it hurts.
The course of oral meds and sub-q fluids slowed but did not reverse her trend of losing weight. Or maybe it wasn't the treatment that slowed her rate of weight loss but rather the fact that she just didn't have that much left to lose. She was positively skeletal when she went in Wednesday morning for a cecal transplant. (That's basically an enema made out of healthy cecotropes from a donor rabbit.) Gemma tolerated the process really well. Everything that went in stayed in. We entertained hopes that she would benefit from the healthy bacterial culture and the nutritional content of the donor cecotropes, and that with subsequent transplants over the next week or more we might turn things around. But I guess it was just too late.
I hung out with her all the rest of the day in the living room, watching her eat hay and amble around, cheerful and curious as always. But then, around 4:45 PM, she began subsiding, as though falling asleep sitting up. She'd sink a little ways, then take a step to recover her stance, then sink some more. I took her temperature: it was low.
I put her on a towel-covered electric heating pad, where she sprawled in an awkward froggie posture, back legs splayed, unable even to hold her head up. Then I called the vet. They said to keep her warm through the night, continue with her medication and fluids as scheduled, and they'd see her first thing in the morning. In case she needed care more urgently, they made sure I had the number of the nearest emergency vet hospital that (very importantly) knew their way around rabbits. That would be the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at CSU, up in Fort Collins, an hour's drive away.
Not being an emergency clinic themselves, there was nothing more they could do. Even if they had been able to see her after hours, she wouldn't have made it there in time. It would have taken us half an hour to get there. We realized she was dead not a mile into the drive to CSU; she may have already been dead by the time we got in the car at all.
We made the decision to keep going and bring her body to CSU. I'm glad we did. They were able to perform a necropsy that confirmed her regular vet's diagnosis to be correct and her treatment to have been appropriate. The death of a pet brings so much guilt and regret, so much self-recrimination, so much painful second-guessing. It was consoling to learn that yes, we were doing all the things we should have done for the condition she was in, and we gave her the best chance of recovery she could possibly have had.
I am immensely grateful to the Colorado House Rabbit Society's post-adoption "bunny tune-up" class, and would recommend it to any prospective rabbit household. A rabbit's health is too potentially volatile to rely solely on annual check-ups, so the idea is to check them out thoroughly at home once every two months in order to establish a baseline and to stand a better chance recognizing crises while it's early enough to act on them. Some items on the checklist are easy, like checking if their poop looks healthy. Some are more daunting, like taking their temperature. There's also some maintenance they taught us how to perform: clipping claws, cleaning out their scent folds, etc. And all of this after like an hour of nothing but "Here's how you pick up a bunny when they are facing you. Here is how you pick up a bunny when they are facing away from you. Now you try. Do it again. You MUST get comfortable doing this, even if they don't like it." It was absolutely thanks to their instruction that we were keeping tabs on Gemma's weight and other symptoms, and therefore knew to get the vet involved as early as we did. I will probably never stop regretting that we didn't get the vet involved earlier, but I do know that we did a lot better than we might have done, had we not had such good training.
She was the absolute sweetest of bunns. Possibly because she had required vet intervention frequently over the course of her nineteen months of life, she was extremely amenable to being held and handled. She enjoyed sitting on my lap while I watched TV. On her very last night, as I was stalking Holland for donor cecotropes, she started coming over to me from across the room, "weeping angels" style. (For those of you not familiar with that particular Doctor Who monster, that means I'd look away, then look back and see that she was slightly closer to me than last time I looked.) I called to her, "Come here, Gemma," and made kissy noises and patted the floor, and she bounded over. It was a very low-energy bounding, but she gave it all the bound she had to give. I gave her a treat, let her "high-five" my palm with her nose, and then she cuddled up next to my leg.
I had expected to enjoy such closeness with her for at least a couple more years. I feel cheated.
Holland, by the way, never did produce cecotropes for me. After sitting by his habitat until nearly three in the morning, darting in to interrupt him the moment his nose dipped toward his belly, I came to the conclusion that he produces only the one kind of dropping, to all appearances a normal fecal dropping, some of which he will eat. And it's not like he sorts through them as though some were edible and some weren't. More than once, after shooing him off the latest batch of pellets and examining them to my satisfaction, I'd offer them back to him one by one, in whatever order, and he would eat them. "Holland apparently hasn't read the script," the vet said. "Some rabbits don't." The donor cecotropes used in Gemma's transplant were provided by the Colorado House Rabbit Society, courtesy of their medical staff and residents of their Bunny Barn.
Holland is obviously affected by Gemma's loss. He spent the first few days after her death being a little bit quieter, a tad more more nervous around sudden noises or changes in his environment (I ran the blender Sunday night, I am a monster), a touch more reluctant to leave his habitat and somewhat slower to rev up to his usual zooming and binking routine. He was always casually intimate with Gemma, grooming her frequently, nosing up under her chin to flop comfortably at her side. On Gemma's last day, after a night and a morning separated from her, he demonstrated how happy he was to have her back by binking around her in tight, light-speed circles, at times propelling himself off the actual wall. (Gemma more or less ignored him and ate her hay.) Most bunnies benefit from being pair-bonded, and Holland is clearly no exception. So yes, eventually we will adopt a new roommate for him. But pair-bonding bunnies is non-trivial, and we're just not ready to start the process. All I can say for sure is, it'll be "eventually soonish."
That's all. That's plenty, actually. There's writing news, but it can wait for tomorrow. For now, I just want to give Gemma a little memorial space. She was loved. She was a good bunn. She'll be missed.