Return of the Bird Curse, Other Names for Scrabble

9 March 2002

People wonder why I hate birds.

Well, when they find out, I mean. I doubt that any of you was sitting around thinking, "I wonder why M'ris hates birds. Let's read her journal to find out." Still. I hate birds. I'm not frightened of them, just really really mad.

And let me tell you why.

When I was a kid, I was constantly getting nailed with bird poo. Seriously. Everywhere we went with Girl Scouts -- and we went a lot of places -- some bird would crap on me. It never happened to someone else. Always me. At the zoo, the amusement park, camp, whatever. My family went on a large vacation that included Denmark, and I was sitting indoors at the Copenhagen train station when a pigeon got me.

Mark thinks this is impressive, and I have to admit that it is. The kind of bird-related luck involved is just intense. But I thought I'd gotten rid of this curse when I went to England. I had met up with a long-time penpal who had taken the train to London to meet me, and we were wandering through London, and a pigeon nailed him right in the middle of Hyde Park. I thought the torch had been passed. (Alan, if you're reading this, I'm sorry -- it wasn't intentional, but, you know, if it worked out that way, I was going to go with it.)

Notice that the above is in the past tense: I thought I'd gotten rid of this curse. Until I was walking home from the video store yesterday and a bird crapped on my head. I put my hand up instinctively, but I already knew what it was. And I stood there on the sidewalk and shouted, "Aughhhhh! I have bird crap on my head!" Timprov didn't know what to do. He laughed and looked alarmed and laughed and tried to see if I was okay, which I mostly was, except, you know, for being half a mile from home with bird poo in my hair.

I laughed. What else do you do? Also I hollered a little bit. Walked the rest of the way home and greeted Mark with, "Don't kiss me on the head!" Shampooed my hair many times. Sigh. I was thinking that if I got any rejections at all, I could someday, when I'm famous, trump Connie Willis' "I got eight rejections in a day" story with, "Oh yeah? I got three, and a bird crapped on my head!" But I got none, so I think I still lose.

But there are more birds out there, and they know how to find me, evidently.

I invoked the five o'clock rule and put my jammies on after that, even though it was not quite five o'clock when I got in the shower. It was a clear sign from the universe to stay put. (The five o'clock rule: if you're not sick, you can put your jammies on any time after five o'clock in the evening. It doesn't matter if you put your real clothes on at four. Heck, if you can manage not to get dressed until 4:45, hop in the shower and put on fresh jammies -- you win. There's also the eight o'clock rule: if for some reason you have to change clothes after eight o'clock at night, you are not obligated to wear a bra, even if you usually would be.)

So we had a good dinner (salmon, salads, and garlic bread -- the salmon was on a great sale) and watched "Enemy of the State" and some stand-up comedy. By that point I had already finished my story for the day, so I read Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories and started Graham Joyce's Indigo before I headed off to bed. (I also discarded a couple of library books after a few pages each. Win some, lose some.)

Haroun and the Sea of Stories is like The Phantom Tollbooth for grown-ups. It's just lovely. There's a Blabbermouth and an Iff and a Butt, and the Pages are...pages. Numbered and fitting into Volumes and Chapters and all. Very much fun. I'm enjoying Indigo so far but am not far enough into it to pronounce judgment yet.

My story for yesterday was "Glass Wind," which is in the same universe as "MacArthur Station," with the same characters. It was almost 5000 words, but they were fast words, fun words. I already have several more story ideas featuring these characters, and I think I'm going to end up with enough to do a themed collection (like Dreams Underfoot) or a stitched-together pseudo-novel (like Callahan's Crosstime Saloon) one of these days. And it's going to be great fun. The major characters interact and develop in more of a short story fashion, so I don't think I'm going to write an actual novel with them as the main characters. You can taunt me for that in twenty years. (I should start keeping a list of these things, things for which I can be freely taunted in the future.) It would be just my luck that I'd get an idea while writing the next story (which has nothing to do with these characters), and you'd be able to taunt me for it in twenty minutes. Ah well. Que sera etc.

David is coming down this afternoon to go to Half-Price Books in Fremont with some component of our household (not everybody has expressed a preference yet, but I'm going, at least) and to play Beat The Hell Out of Richard with Timprov. Since neither of them is Richard, I suppose they'll have to make do with trying to beat each other. In other families than mine, this game is known as Scrabble. The family title makes a lot more sense when you know that my grandpa's name is Richard.

Grandpa and I play Scrabble and similar games about the same way, which is to say, rather poorly. We're both more interested in making "good" words than in making high-scoring words that don't allow our opponents to take all the triple word scores. In my last game, I felt covered with geekly glory for playing "glyph," but that's only a barely above-average play as far as real Scrabble folks go. But I'd rather have that than triple letter scoring something silly. Grandpa would, too.

Of course, someone in Timprov's family would probably have been able to play "glzyphiq" off of someone's i, meaning "small brown bird nesting in the Hebrides." Timprov comes from that kind of Scrabble family. They all know all the words with q and no u, all the words with three v's and no vowels. That kind of thing. Because of this, it's pretty pointless for Mark and me to play Scrabble with Timprov, so we mostly don't. My family plays fairly frequently, but casually. And sometimes when my grandma has called me up to talk, Grandpa will get on the phone.

"Guess what we played last night, Rissy?"
"Beat the Hell Out of Richard?"
"Yes, and do you know what they did?" (This in tones of utter disgust.)
"They beat the hell out of Richard?"

Mark's family plays a game called "Take Two," which I like because it involves speed as well as word formation. Mark and I taught Timprov this game, and he "got it" halfway through the first round and trounced us soundly. This is probably worth teaching David, although I'm not sure actually playing it with him would have a point, either, if he's as good as he sounds.

Oh, on an unrelated note, it looks like Paradox 12 has gone under. It's too bad -- they paid me money, and I would have liked to see them do it again. But with the vagaries of their format, I'm pretty sure their traffic was, shall we say, not what it could have been. And it doesn't look like they had a very firm business plan. So.

So I'm going to pick a story early and work on it, see if I can get a good chunk taken out of it before David arrives. It's an important day. It's Daniel's birthday (Daniel is the older of Mark's two younger brothers, for those of you still in need of a scorecard), and it's also Aunt Ellen and Uncle Phil's anniversary. Happy all over the place! Dave and Lin get points for bringing Dan into the family, and Aunt Ellen gets major style points for Uncle Phil. I'm so glad to have them both. Much celebrating ought to ensue.

And, hey, chances are you'll be able to look at your day, at the end of it, and think, "Well, I never had any bird poo in my hair." Likely no dung of any kind, in fact. This may not be the stuff of a motivational bestseller, but it's certainly something to aim for.

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