After making Clancy in Clay with the restrictions of following the photographs, I felt like making something a little looser without restrictions.
Creating dogs out of clay from photos stresses me out. I’ve procrastinated making this one for at least a month. When I began to think of it as a cartoon in clay, I finally relaxed and was able to make it. It needs to dry a couple days before I turn it upside down and hollow it out. I’ve never done the complete dog, body and all, before. I’ve only done just the head, some for hanging on the wall, others for sitting on a table, some with stands, others for sitting on their own. I did a series of them as candle holders also. Making the entire dog presents its own problems of proportion without letting the size of the dog get out of hand. Next comes painting it. Here are the photos I worked from.
Fleegle and Franny sit inside the house watching me through the screen door as I plant shrubs in what used to be the front lawn.
As I dig the hole for the last one, Fleegle says, “Raud, let us out. We can help you dig your holes,” Fleegle says.
Franny scratches at the screen door. “And fill them too.”
“We can even do both at the same time,” Fleegle adds.
I lean against my shovel. “We tried that, and then you saw the neighbor’s cat across the street and went for a chase.”
“He taunted me. He called me slow poke. How could I not chase him?”
Franny wags her tail. “I didn’t chase the cat, I’m a good girl, I was chasing the slow poke.”
Fleegle gives her a look and grunts his dissatisfaction. “Please, Raud, let us out. I need to mark all of those new shrubs as mine before the other dogs in the neighborhood do.”
“So you want me to let you out so you can pee on my new plants?”
“It’s fertilizer, Raud. They need it to grow and thrive.”
I snort my derision at that. “The lawn in the backyard shows otherwise.”
“But Raud, you need supervision. You’re doing it all wrong.”
Franny looks at Fleegle. “You mean there’s a right and wrong to digging a hole?”
“Of course not. It’s just about the digging, but he doesn’t know that.”
I put my hand on my hip and give the two of them a hard stare. “I do have ears, you know, and though my hearing may not be as sharp as the two of yours, I can still hear you over here just fine. You need to learn to whisper if you’re going to talk about someone behind their back.”
Fleegle stands up and his ears go back. “Speaking of which, you better look behind you.”
Franny paws at the screen door. “It’s the gnome, Raud.”
“I’m not falling for that.”
“But he’s carrying a sharp stick,” Fleegle says.
“Ouch!” I shout and dance away from the source of the sharp pain in my calf. “Bloody wasp. Why sting me? I did nothing to you.”
“Bloody gnome is more like it,” Franny says.
There’s no gnome, only a wasp buzzing me. I head inside to wait for it to find trouble somewhere else.
Fleegle moves aside as I open the screen door. “If you dug up my yard it wouldn’t bother me, but I like digging. The gnome apparently doesn’t.”
Franny slowly shakes her head. “Nah, it’s not the digging that set him off, it’s taking his truck out for a spin that pissed him off. He must really identify with that truck, I mean, look at him. He’s so small, even smaller than me, and the truck is so huge. It even has an extra step just to climb into it.”
I shake my head in disbelief. “A compensating gnome? Now I’ve heard it all, Franny the Freudian.” I close the screen door behind me. “Let me know when the wasp is gone.”
I’m greeted at the front door by a wide-eyed Fleegle with his ears pinned back with worry.
“Raud, thank the god of stray people you found your way home. Just before you got here I heard this terribly loud rumble and the ground shook all through the house. I thought the sky had finally begun to fall and was crashing into the driveway. Then just as quickly as it began, it stopped.”
“That was me pulling into the driveway.”
“No it wasn’t. I know the sound of our car from miles away. It sounds nothing like that.”
“I wasn’t driving the Element, I was in the truck. I finally got it running again after sitting in the driveway for five years.”
“We have a truck?”
“Yep, that old Ford F250 from the 70s. I just realized it’s been sitting there broken down longer than you are old.”
“You mean that giant lawn ornament you climb up on to trim the tree next to it? I didn’t know that was ours.”
“That’s the one, but it’s not like it’s sitting on blocks in the middle of the front lawn. It’s been parked in the driveway.”
“With the ivy growing over it,” he says.
“Now I can trim the ivy without climbing under the truck.”
“Uh-ho, you better lock this door, Raud,” Fleegle says, nudging the front door closed behind me with his nose.
“You’ve gone and taken the gnomes home for a spin around the neighborhood. He’s been living in that truck.”
“I’ve done one better than that, I’ve loaded the truck bed up with two cubic yards of Douglas-fir bark dust. I’m finally getting rid of that front lawn.”
“The gnome isn’t going to like that. We better shut and lock all the windows and doors. He could attack any minute. You never know what an angry gnome will do.”
“There are no gnomes in the front yard. There’s nothing out there but a dead lawn.”
“Raud, I hate to break it to you, but you’re not exactly known for your powers of observation.”
Franny ambles down the hallway from the bedroom, yawning. “I just had the strangest dream. I dreamt a little guy with a long beard and a pointy red hat crawled in through the bedroom window.”
Fleegle slow wags his head. “And she ain’t talking about Santa.”
* * *
That evening when I climb in bed I feel something very itchy against my legs. I push back the covers to see what it is. “Okay, which one of you tracked in the bark dust?”
Fleegle and Franny exchange a look, then both say to me, “Not us, Raud, it was the gnome.”
While I stand next to the kitchen counter listening to the coffeemaker percolate, Fleegle ambles in from the backyard, followed closely by his blond shadow, Franny.
“I recognize that smell,” he says. “I thought you quit drinking that stuff.”
“What smell?” Franny asks. “You mean that burning smell?”
“I used to drink coffee but I quit,” I say to Franny.
Fleegle sits and looks up at me. “Green tea just not doing it for you, eh? You should try chewing the bark off of a stick.”
Franny tilts her head to the side. “What’s coffee?”
Fleegle glances at her. “I don’t really know. He never shares it. But I bet it taste like chocolate.”
“What’s chocolate taste like?”
“I’ve never had it except in my dreams but I know it’s good.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because he hogs it all for himself and doesn’t even let me lick the bowl.”
“Not even the spoon?” she asks.
“Have you tried threatening to pee in his bed?”
Fleegle tilts his head at her. “Why would I do that? That’s where I sleep.”
“You don’t actually do it, you just make him think you’ll do it.”
I look down at Franny, trying to remember if Fleegle was ever this devious as a puppy. “Hey, Franny, do you hear that?” I say very excitedly. Her ears perk up. “Squirrels!” I half shout.
And off the two of them go, but Fleegle stops half way out the door and turns around. “I’m not falling for that. The bird feeder has been empty for weeks and the squirrels are taking their meals in someone else’s yard.”
“I’ll fill the feeder for you today after my coffee.”
“You said coffee was bad for you. I distinctly remember you pacing the house in the middle of the night saying, ‘never again will I drink coffee’.”
“I’ve written nothing but ‘to do’ lists since I quit drinking coffee, not a single short story, not even a poem or a joke.”
“You blame your writer’s block on green tea?”
I nod. “Yep. The coffee is the reward I get for writing and green tea just isn’t much of a biscuit for me.”
Franny wags her tail. “Writer’s block? Is that something I can chew on because I really need to chew on something right now.” She grabs Fleegle’s back leg in her mouth. “Wait, did he just say biscuit?” she says with his foot still in her mouth.
Fleegle ignores her, trying to shake his leg loose from the grip of her sharp little teeth. “But why is coffee not bad anymore?”
“The truth is I say a lot of things and sometimes I get it wrong.”
He finally gets his leg loose. “Ah, I get it, the truth is negotiable. So just how many biscuits did it take to bend the truth about coffee?”
The coffeemaker finishes percolating. I grab a mug and pour. “Well, in my case, it’s two sugars and a splash of cream,” I say with a smile.
* * *
Anyone else also have their writing habits linked to a specific drink or ritual?
A reader emailed me this photo when their copy of Negotiations with Cookies arrived in Strone, Scotland.