The Normal Neurotic: Stiffs and Stuffeds

I’m not someone who deals well with change. You would have known this by a recent fixture in my dining room: a large glass tank containing a wooden hutch, a water bottle, and rodent bedding — but no rodent. When our final gerbil, Carmella, died, I couldn’t bring myself to take her cage down and left it there for some months, imagining every morning that she was still alive and well, just a little quiet, “napping” the day away inside her cozy hutch. Not wanting to bury her in our back yard for fear the dogs would dig her up, but also not wanting to simply toss her out with the trash, I had placed her curled body in a zip-lock plastic bag and put her “temporarily” in the freezer. There she still lies in cold, stiff “sleep,” next to the Popsicles, the frozen peas, and Nibbles the guinea pig.

Elise Hempel, March 31, The Normal Neurotic

Elise is one of my favorite writers (ok, she’s my partner too) and I have been trying to get her to get her work online for years. She published a great piece here a few years ago, called “S.A.D., TV, and Me,” but since then has been silent, as far as the web goes. Of course, she’s been writing away, collecting pieces until she found the time or the format to get them published.

Now she’s started her own blog, The Normal Neurotic, and has been busily posting her backlog of columns and short essays. She’s a poet too, and there’s some chance that she’ll publish some of that work as well. I picked, “Stiffs and Stuffed,” because I love her humor when it’s most disconcertingly morbid. I think of that every time I open the refrigerator at her house.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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