li’l la luna

When our daughter wanted to buy a puppy, we tried to talk her into waiting until she was on her own. We warned her: All dogs become mine.

I don’t try to steal them. Maybe my tummy rubs are the best. Perhaps I’m the one most often scooping out the dog food. Or I’m taller. Might be an alpha thing. (Taiga, the husky, is different — she’s not mine; I’m her favorite subject.)

2018 02 02 la luna 2Cass couldn’t wait, and along came li’l la Luna Rae. Somehow that daughter-of-mine pulled it off. Even though she worked nights and took classes by day, she managed to keep Luna close enough to know who her mommy was. Now that Cass is off at the University, she and Luna are inseparable.

Oh, Luna is happy to see me, no doubt. (My tummy rubs are the best.)

But each time Cass returned from school or work, we braced for it. Ten or more solid minutes of Luna — up in our daughter’s arms, no matter how big Luna got — wailing/howling/barking as if her momma had returned from the dead.

2018 02 02 la luna 3
luna on cass, the bark-a-lounger

ode to tilly

more two, less three

it’s three of late to share with all

how long we knew thee

since then, sans bear and claw

2017 10 24 Tilly 03 Bite

Tilly made me call our big dogs “bear.” She’d put her paws on the picture window in the dining area, claws making whale-songs against the glass. Huge pads and long curls of hard keratin. I’d envision a grizzly wanting in.

I still hated dogs then (a small dog thing) and Tilly arrived small. Energetic. Chewing. Biting. And those claws. Mix Canadian wolf with German Shepherd and you get a force of nature. My daughter says it’s a wolf-thing to hold another’s limb in the jaws. Young with no bite control, she was a paper punch. At a year old, she had bite control. But you’d look down and see your forearm in the jaws of this wolfly thing, and yank your arm away.

Serrated teeth, I swear.

2017 10 24 Tilly 02 Play

She ripped the plastic dryer vent off the house. I replaced it with tin. She ripped that off. I replaced it with steel and it survived. She yanked a 2×4 runner off the fence and trotted up with it balanced in her teeth, proud as could be. Dug holes. Uprooted an 8-foot tree. Pulled the satellite coax cable off the back of the house.

The sprinkler system we used to have? She brought it to us piece-by-piece.

Yeah, I hated dogs. It was like my brother-in-law said. If you have a dog, you don’t have a backyard. You have a dog pen.

2017 10 24 Tilly 01 Snooze

Then, a year and a half old, she matured. Overnight. Stopped digging. Stopped teething on lumber. Stopped putting our body parts in her maw.

If that wasn’t strange enough, I fell in love with her.

She rarely barked. If she did, grab the flashlight and the gun because something is out there. Possum or skunk, snake or porcupine. And playing tug-of-war with a branch or toy, she never growled. Actually, that was creepy. I was used to the hyper little Jack Rat who thought he had to intimidate everything with his vicious snarls and snaps. Tilly played as if she were holding back, dialed from a 10 down to a 1, as if thinking: I must be gentle with my humans, lest I break them. If she won the toy or tree, she brought it back and waited patiently. C’mon, human. I’ll give you a chance.

All good things must end. We got Taiga. An escape artist. She could smell weak spots in the fence. Softness in the dirt. Whatever it took. But usually just enough for her smaller frame to squeeze through. Then one night she engineered an escape Tilly could take advantage of.

And we live right on a busy highway.

Don’t worry. I don’t get sad when I run across pictures of Tilly Bear. I smile.

2016 02 06 tilly

Above the post: Tilly would sit on the porch swing and gaze upon her domain. What was left of it.

As for the ode at the top, I hope you got a laugh. It’s funny in the original Vogon and all nuance is lost in translation.

(the real translation: I am no Keats)

eclipse 2017

There are 149 miles between my farthest north and south work locations. On Monday, August 21, 2017 I happened to be at the northern location. The day of the eclipse. This put me in about the 70% of solar eclipse range.

I go south weekly and only go to this most northern facility once a month. Luck of the draw, really. I had made the schedule a month in advance, without the eclipse in mind.

The picture above is using binoculars to focus the sun on my jeans. I tried white paper at first. Do. Not. Do. That. I wore that crescent on my retina for half an hour. Tried blue paper. Red paper. A black smooth-ish object. Finally, denim seemed just right for confirmation the eclipse was happening without blinding my eyes.

The company man for another oil major showed up. He had a welding shield, but said their safety man told them it didn’t block the right rays for direct viewing. But, I figured it’d make a nice filter for the phone camera. Check.

2017 08 25 eclipse 02
eclipse through welding shield

Meanwhile, my dad, daughter, son and I were group texting. Someone with my son had the “official” eclipse-viewing sunglasses. Made of paper. One-off, I think. His picture was a tiny orange thumbnail through a lens. My daughter sent a nice picture. She was a little north of me at Lubbock, at a Texas Tech viewing party, beneath a nice scrim of clouds.

2017 08 25 eclipse 04
eclipse at lubbock

My daughter texted, “Use puddles to see it.” I swear, for about five seconds, I was going to open the app store to look for the Puddles eclipse viewing app. Doh! Hey, I had a phone in my hand. Then I saw water in the containment under a nearby chemical tank, and it hit me. Got a nice picture, what with the ripples on the water and the building clouds.

2017 08 25 eclipse 03
eclipse using the puddles app

For the duration of my job at that location, at what is usually the hottest part of the day, it was dim and relatively cool. I suggested we petition for an eclipse each afternoon in summer. Someone make it happen. How big would the satellite have to be—to cover where I work?

Next stop, the Dallas area for the 2024 eclipse. That’s like a day trip from here.

micro fiction | lampyridae

An errant star whizzed past Tiff’s leg. It seemed the fresh ink and tiny blisters of blood stirred in its wake. My fault. I drove her to the tattoo parlor and swore she was eighteen. A lie about either of us. Guilt ignited my pledge of penance.

“You will not tell mom,” she said, dancing between clumps of grama grass.

“This is the part where I say it’s for your own good.”

She sneered, teeth white by moonlight. “I know, and when we’re older we’ll laugh and laugh—except we won’t. Jerk.”

“I could tell dad.”


A squadron buzzed around her legs and I read his name, coiled around her ankle. Like a shackle. “He’s not worth it.”

She rolled her teen idol magazine into a tube and smacked a firefly against her shin. Her giggles and the crunch of dry grass beneath her Toms receded into the night. Whop. Whop.

“Where are you going?”

“On a killing spree.”

Written for a contest on a blog. It had to include several words or phrases, and the only one I can remember is “killing spree.” Here, I threw out the 100-word limit and told the story as originally intended.

Besides glowing for mating rituals, fireflies glow to ward off predators. They’re distasteful or toxic, and predators learn to associate the glow with yuck!

I imagine the brother in this tale going on to make a point with another bit of firefly trivia… Some can’t produce the chemical to fend off predators. They mimic the mating flashes of species that can, lure them in, and eat them.

Pictured: light painting with fireworks. Close enough?

ball with tressa

This German shepherd is serious about ball. If she doesn’t get to go out at least once a day, she whines and moans as if she’s lost a friend. It’s raining this evening, and I’m preparing for the worst.

I’ll take her downstairs to watch a movie when she starts. She loves to snooze in the basement home theater and catch the occasional popcorn tossed her way… Yeah, that’ll sate her.


We have to take at least two balls—preferably three. She always comes back, proper fetch style, but I have to either get ugly with the “release” command or be fast with grabbing the ball from her mouth. She lets me take it easily enough, but she’ll stand between my legs with her head away from my hands.

With two or three balls, we can grab one off the ground while she catches the other. When it’s time for a rest, she’ll hoard them, one in her mouth, another gripped in her bear claws, and the third under her body. And she’ll cover the balls forever if we let her.


We’ve learned not to make her run too far. She’d run herself to death for those balls. So aside from a couple of long throws to mix it up, we’ll bounce them close by and let her leap for them. Means more throws without wearing her out too fast. More play, less panting.

dolphin technique

But all good things must end, and it’s time to go back inside. When she runs back and sees me holding another ball, she drops the one she just caught, usually while still running. If I’m ready, it’ll roll to my feet and I pick it up. Now, with all balls in hand, I say “house” and off she goes for the doggy door. Good dog!

shark bites moon

Pictured: Tressa at about one year old. You may note the fold of her left ear in the middle shot. Let’s just say Taiga, the husky, is serious about dominant play, and she rendered that ear so when Tressa was still a pup. Taiga, Taiga, Taiga.

sans visual cues

You hop in your ride, hit the road, and the first sign you pass is a message from the Department of Transportation.

Congratulations. We’ve upgraded your roadway to the latest version of Office.


And suddenly you have to be a lot more attentive, instead of paying attention to important things like driving.

Pictured: An accident scene just up the highway one night.

(excerpt from) the rift cell

The garage door stood open with everything inside shoved against one wall. A red toolbox on casters, a floor jack, a mismatched set of ramps and an engine hoist. Someone had swept greasy rags, trash and dirt out onto the driveway. No car.

“Nikki took it when she left.” Rafe stepped out of the shadow of the entryway to the house. He wore a dingy oil-stained tee and ripped jeans. Nice ensemble for a reunion.

“I ran after her,” Rafe continued. “Was about to cut across the park and head her off—and that’s when the ground opened up.”

“Then part of you didn’t want to catch her.”

“I wanted my car back.”

Bingo. Cavanaugh nodded and gazed into the garage. “Why are you ready to cross your rift now? Is it still about your car?”

“No. I’m surrounded by rifts. I can’t go more than two blocks from my house. There’s a 7-Eleven at the end of the street and the diner’s a block over. But if I get real groceries, it’s from charity. I’m trapped.”

“We call it a rift cell.”

“You mean it’s like I’m in jail?”

Cavanaugh shook his head. “It’s just the space between people’s rifts. And you’re lucky. This isn’t the worst rift cell I’ve seen.”

Rafe rolled his eyes. “I bet.”

“It happened to me in the desert outside Phoenix. My rift and two others intersected right there. I had a wedge of sand just big enough to lie down inside. No food or water, and no one knew I was out there.”

Rafe’s brow furrowed. “So that’s why you learned to cross other people’s rifts.”

“My life depended on it.”

The short story on Daily Science Fiction dot com. Here.

kid quotes

I turned the key in the ignition. Click.

My four-year-old son looked up at me. “What’s wrong?”

“We have to jump it, Aeric.”

Popping the hood seemed like a teachable moment. I waved Aeric over and he climbed up onto the bumper.

“That’s the motor,” I said. “It’s what makes the truck go.”

He hopped back down and sauntered off, mumbling, “But not today.”


Since I mentioned working on this, I’ll explain. Snowblades is a soundtrack for a movie in my head. It tells a story in music. Here’s a possible blurb:

Avian, a hunter in the Snowblade tribe, lost his wife in an Icesaber raid a year ago. He and his young daughter believe she’s dead; slaves don’t last long in the ruthless tribe from across the frozen mountain lake.

When the Snowblade leader announces a truce with the Icesabers, giving up their primary hunting ground on the Northcrest, Avian challenges. He loses the blade battle, and exile is the punishment. Avian leaves his daughter with friends, vowing to return.

The impossible promise twists his guts as he leaves.

He crashes his snowblade, a sled with sails and wings for hunting on the mountain faces, at the bottom of the glacier that is their home. On foot, Avian makes it to the trader’s cabin at the reservoir between the glacier and the seaside city he has only seen from high in the mountains.

A trade caravan stops at the trader’s cabin, bearing pelts from the Icesaber tribe that met them in the mountain pass. The traders talk of one slave that carried burdens for the Icesabers. A tall woman with platinum hair and magenta eyes, stunning, memorable.

Avian’s wife lives.

Now, somehow, he must make the vow to his daughter come true.

So yeah. I finally uploaded one of the tracks to SoundCloud. “Rise.” In this scene, Avian has finished building a new snowblade with the help of the trader’s daughter visiting from the university. She brought her knowledge of lightweight metal alloys and canvas for dirigible construction. He brought his knowledge of snowblade glider sleds. Together, they’ve made something that might fly like nothing anyone has seen.

In the music, Avian rides a massive passenger and cargo dirigible up from the reservoir and over the mountains. He sees his glacier home from the air. Their mountain hunting grounds. The frozen lake separating his tribe from the cliffs of the Icesaber’s lair.

At the end of the music, Avian launches his new snowblade from the dirigible, and it flies. He heads for the cliffs, bent on returning to his daughter, with her mother at his side.

Click play below to hear it:

Update: All 15 tracks of the album are on Soundcloud.

let’s talk taiga

What’s the matter? Never seen a black-and-white before? I channel Mushu whenever I see Taiga. Sometimes it gets a laugh if I call her “the black-and-white.” On a slow day.

We got this Siberian Husky from a breeder in Oklahoma. That makes her an Okie, like my mom. Just saying we like Okies, even if driving up there feels like going behind the Iron Curtain because the first Welcome to Oklahoma is a tollbooth. Papers, or you can pay us off.

The breeders were out of town, so they left our puppy with a friend. A friend, and her flea friends. We’re sure Taiga brought all the fleas with her. We actually bought what looked like a tiny Shop Vac that plugged into a lighter outlet, to suck up the fleas bounding off Taiga on the ride back. Our next stop before checking into a dog-friendly motel was Pet Smart. They recommended Dawn dishwashing soap for a puppy. It works.

In the store, Taiga yipped at anyone who ignored her, straining at her leash to go after the insolent shoppers. If they didn’t ignore her, she soaked up their attention with attitude. Queen Taiga.

Don’t get me wrong. She’s sweet. She just knows our place. I like what my niece passed along one day…

Dogs think: “They feed me. They must be gods.”

Cat’s think: “They feed me. I must be a god.”

Taiga sits at the cat-end of that spectrum.

Here’s Taiga looking wolf-like playing with Tilly (the wolf-Shepherd hybrid) one day.

taiga stalker

And here’s Taiga looking goofy when the tables turned. Don’t worry—Tilly didn’t hurt her. It just looks scary.


Problem with Taiga is she’s an escape artist. She’d find a weak slat on the fence and dig under it. Just a bit. Then she’d break the slat and somehow squeeze that Husky frame through a 4-inch wide opening with a little hole under it. Once, we got her back a week later after putting an ad in the paper. For that week, she happily resided with one of the local pharmacists four miles away from home.

One night she broke two slats. Enough for Tilly to squeeze out with her. Taiga returned hot and thirsty the next day. Tilly didn’t survive the highway. Sad day.

Can’t be mad at Taiga for it, even though I know she plotted becoming the only dog, never happier since. But I made her pay for it, with this…

von Tressa