Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Teahouse Queued on Critters!

My first chapter of In The Teahouse, “A Night of Celebration,” is in this week’s queue over at Critters. It’s a RFDR (Request For Dedicated Readers), meaning that anyone who reads and comments on the chapter sample can obtain the whole rough draft and correspond with me directly.

Well. I’m a teensy bit nervous right now.

I have a natural tendency towards anxiety. I worry about the stupidest things, from having my picture taken to whether or not I’m properly taking care of my pets. Suffice it to say that my writing undergoes pretty much the same treatment, though so far I haven’t woken from any particularly nasty dreams involving critiques. That will probably happen tonight, with my luck. I have enough neuroses to qualify as a Woody Allen character, or perhaps someone from Seinfeld. Still, I try to keep my head as level as I possibly can.

I asked for people’s input because I honestly want to improve upon a story I’m already rather fond of. I enjoyed writing it, but it could be so much better. As it is now I get the feeling that it’s rather standard fare, and I’d like to make sure it rises up enough in quality that some agent out there feels it has moneymaking qualities, because otherwise it’s going to be something that people only see when they ask me about that unpublished book I once wrote.

I’m not going to leak the chapter here, but I don’t think it will hurt to repro the note I tacked on at the end. This rather adequately sums up how I feel about the draft right now and where I need improvements the most.


Author notes: In the Teahouse is a horror novel dealing with tea, ghosts
and compulsive suicide. This is the cleaned up first draft, and there
will be edits done later on to add chapters between the chapters that
exist now. I am asking any interested reviewers to pay particularly
close attention to both the Japanese element of the story (factual
inaccuracies, places where additional information may be beneficial,
etc.) and places where the plot itself may be lacking. I have already
found a few that I am not entirely happy with, but I feel that outside
opinions at this time may be a great help to me.

Right now the draft stands at 50,500 words, though with edits it should
end up at around 80,000. "A Night of Celebration" is the first of fourteen
chapters, not including a very short epilogue.

Thank you in advance.


Eagerly awaiting the first of the emails. Manuscripts just went out now, so between right this moment and next Wednesday I should have at least a small amount of feedback to work with.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More Haiku

Mowing the tall grass
A thousand dandelions
The sea of gold, gone

I’ve been writing a haiku a day or more since I decided to take up the task, but most of them aren’t really all that good. In the coming weeks I should revisit my earlier efforts and clean them up a bit. I picked up a copy of The Haiku Handbook at Barnes yesterday and have been toting it around with me ever since.

It’s odd that I should find an interest in poetry after years of not really caring for it at all. When I was younger I wrote a ton of free verse, from late high school throughout college, but after a few years I stopped. I had been trying to break into short fiction publishing and didn’t really do anything with any of the poems. I’m not even sure if I still have the old poetry notebooks anymore.

I guess we really do return to the things we’ve left behind as we age.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Room to Write - "Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid"

"Make a list of the things you fear. Pick one and describe it in concrete and specific detail."

This one was a bit difficult for me, because my most prominent fear is more abstract than most. I'm not afraid of physically tangible things like snakes, rats or spiders. I'm wary of heights but not necessarily afraid of them, and I can climb a ladder or stand on a bridge without falling to pieces. What really scares me is more of a concept, and it was really hard to pin down exactly how it affects me without becoming redundant.


I am afraid of failure. Not all kinds of failure, mind you, but the kind of failure that is the end result of some misguided or underwhelming effort. As a child, do you remember being told that you could accomplish anything so long as you put forth your best effort? Do you remember fantasizing about growing up to become the President or developing the cure to a deadly disease? I do.

I was going to be a ballerina, a belly dancer and an astronaut. Just because they told me I could be anything if I wanted.

But that really isn't true. No, not even close. The people who succeed and achieve brilliance are, to be completely frank and unnecessarily blunt, anomalies. These are people who were in the right place, had made the right social contacts and possessed a set of adequate skills at the perfect moment in time. Perhaps they made monumental effort to get to where they made it to, but effort alone isn't going to reward you with everything you've ever wanted. In fact, it may result in nothing.

Every time I go to a shopping mall this concept is hammered home. Every time I see a table full of Twilight books at Barnes or a rack of Twilight shirts at the front of a Hot Topic I'm reminded of this. I'm not going to derail this exercise by spending more time than necessary explaining in depth my issues with Stephenie Meyer, but let me say that there are a great many truly brilliant and altogether under-read authors who are passed up by young readers in order to salivate over her latest book. If you buy into the concept of effort and good faith yielding rewards, this is a cold slap in the face by an arrogant, sparkly marble hand.

This is what frightens me. This is what causes me to second-guess myself or, even worse, to lose interest in achieving. Simply knowing that putting forth time, effort and hope could very well (and, statistically, probably) do nothing but bring my faults to the public fore is terrifying.

What if I write a novel and every agent rejects me? What if every publishing house blows me off? What if I'm exposed to my peers as a fraud and a wannabe? What if people find out I really don't know what I'm doing and am usually just winging it? What if I manage to successfully navigate the world of publishing (which is really an achievement in and of itself) and then nobody reads me?

I think I would prefer an epic chorus of negative reviews to the silence of being ignored.

I'm really getting way ahead of myself here, though, because to be either mocked or ignored you have to put yourself in front of people, and this fear is keeping me frozen behind a thick, dark curtain. Nobody knows I'm here. My friends are barely, if at all, aware of my ambition. I'm terrified and unsure if I should put myself in the vulnerable position of writer-in-public, but yet at the very same time I know what happens to me when I try to leave this urge behind me. I grow depressed. I grow fat. I lose the will to do anything but wallow in self-pity and bitterness.

I become someone who isn't me. That is much, much more frightening than being mocked for being a crappy writer.

How unbelievably hilarious it is that I suffer from the dual fears of stagnation and progress? It seems that no matter which path I take ( and it's obvious at this point that I've already chosen one over the other) there's going to be something waiting just out of view to frighten me. If it won't come during my waking hours it's sure to find me in my sleep. I have frequent nightmares, always with failure as the core theme. When my fish are sick I have dreams that feature closeups of tanks full of still-living, half-decomposed occupants, jaws and heads with gaping holes, gills struggling to function, fins barely mobile. This is what you've done to them, I tell myself, because you didn't take care of them when you could have. After waking I invariably do a water change or swap out filters and start testing ammonia levels, because I realize, at least for a while, that inaction is far worse than failure after effort.

There is no choice for me. I have to do what I have to do, but the end result of this doing is a horrible blank in the future. There is no guarantee, no safety net, no consolation prize. I suppose I could very well pull the adult version of the taking-my-ball-and-going-home stunt and publish my work myself, but even then I'd be subject to the same pass-fail standards of success that are prevalent everywhere else. And I'd have to deal with the added stress of trying to convince the rest of the publishing world to deal with me on terms they're not often willing to deal on.

I will soldier on, and hope for the best, because the shudder-in-my-chest fear that falls upon me when I think of being mocked and torn apart is nothing compared to the wake-up-screaming fear I feel during the nights when I have horrible dreams full of guilt for not trying.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Haiku on Eating Dandelion Heads

Gail Sher starts out her book, One Continuous Mistake, describing how writing saved her life. In the beginning, she says, she started out writing one haiku a day. She would write her daily five-seven-five and then return to haiku of days past to polish and revise.

That has me thinking. Seventeen syllables? Sure, I can do that. But can I do it well? I’ve always been interested in haiku, and when I was younger I’d often try to come up with the most insulting, crass and grotesque ones I could. I’m sure that was perverting the entire purpose of it, but it was a lot of fun.

Now that I’m an adult, I think I’d like to try my hand at writing meaningful haiku, especially about the mundane things I do. It makes them seem a bit more interesting, twisted into this attractive format. There are more rules (aesthetic in nature) than just the syllables and format, but for the moment I’d like to keep it simple. I’ll work up to it.

Hana tempura
Lawn as beautiful garden
Weeds taste wonderful

Friday, April 17, 2009

He Was That Guy

When I was downsized out of the company, I left without saying goodbye to most of my coworkers. I called a few that I was close with when I got home, but while I was still there everyone else was getting ready for a staff meeting and setting up for an outdoor barbecue (in February, I’m really not sure what that was all about) and I was so giddy at having been let go of the one last thing that was really anchoring me in misery that I pretty much forgot about everyone else. I waved halfheartedly as I carted my boxes of stuff out to my car and then drove off, not really concerned about anything.

I kind of had this picture in my head of everyone showing up and going about their daily routines indefinitely, as if I’d never existed, the only thing different in the office being me not slouched at my desk. I imagined my departure being clean and precise and the hole I’d left behind me being stitched up rather quickly and painlessly.

Perhaps the company did get over me quickly. I’m not sure either way and I can’t say I even care to know. I talked to a couple of old coworkers this morning though and as far as other people’s lives are concerned there’s at least one person I used to know who doesn’t exist anywhere in the world anymore.

He was That Guy, you know the one. There’s actually more than one of Those Guys and you always know (or are buddies with) at least one of them. I’ve known several, actually. This one was thirty-five and exclusively dated women at least ten years younger. He was divorced and played in some kind of garage band and acted like he was a rock star. It seemed he had a new live-in girlfriend every couple of months and he’d brag about it to me (and the rest of the office) like I was supposed to be impressed by him. He’d tell me to come to one of his shows. When he talked he had that kind of fake casual air about him that guys who are pretending they care about things less than they actually do have. He was kind of obnoxious, though in an unusually humorous way. He wasn’t the kind of guy I’d find myself wanting to date but at the same time he wasn’t what I would consider a horrible person. Despite the fact that he annoyed the hell out of everyone else, for various reasons (calling off, working slowly and lying about napping, having an excuse for everything, not accepting criticism or disciplinary actions on the part of management), we were always cool with each other. There were nights when I honestly enjoyed talking to him, even if only for a few minutes. I used to send him ridiculous text messages about mudkips and Pokemans back before he had my number in his cell phone. I spent an hour once doing that, and he couldn’t figure out who I was or what I wanted. It was the highlight of my night that night.

His issues at work started, or seemed to start, shortly after his brother (or half-brother, I can’t remember) died overseas last year. He was younger and was in the military. After he came back from bereavement leave my coworker had a bit more of an attitude than he used to. The calling off and excuses for poor performance became more frequent. He’d have loud arguments with both of my supervisors and would storm out and go home to cool off and come in the next day like nothing had happened. It was a vicious cycle, and he was constantly on the brink of being fired, but for one reason or another it never came to pass, not while I was still there. We either didn’t have an extra person to be trained on his route or whatever he was doing that day wasn’t fire-worthy. But he was always in the crosshairs.

According to the old coworkers I spoke with this morning, management eventually had enough of him, and when he was disciplined for the last time there was a huge blowout in the office. I’m rather relieved I wasn’t there to witness it. He was fired, but not without threatening a few people, and I guess the building was on lockdown for a few days afterwards. This is all hearsay, keep in mind.

At some point after he left the company his girlfriend moved out. I don’t know the details of all of this, only the end result, so I can’t state any facts or even do much speculating beyond this point.

I know most of my writing, from the short stories to the novels, indulges rather heavily in self-sacrifice and self-destruction as both theme and plot device. I’ve had all manner of characters end their lives in all manner of bizarre and/or disturbing ways. There’s something about the mental image and the drama it lends to plotting that has me a bit addicted, and it bothers me once in a while when I think about it too much. But as long as it keeps fitting so well into the projects I’m working on I’ll continue to do it.

In real life the idea of somebody you know tying a noose around their neck and hanging themselves carries not a single vestige of the drama, mystique or romance of fictional suicide. Not one bit. Instead it has me feeling very nauseated. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I heard the news this morning. As soon as his name was brought up I started to laugh, thinking he’d gotten into trouble or had done something outrageous and pissed the bosses off again. For a moment, when I heard his name, I thought perhaps he’d been fired. He certainly would have deserved it. It wasn’t until they actually said “killed himself” that I stopped chuckling. It was one of those moments where your thought processes just stop mid-task and you stand there, dazed, as they rewind and replay the information that’s just been presented. Your mind actually has to verify that what you’ve just heard really is what you’ve just heard. It’s a very out there kind of feeling.

I kind of wish I’d stuck around that last day at work, just to see everyone come in for their routes and say proper goodbyes, instead of flying out of there like a self-obsessed snob.

He left behind at least two children of his own and another child he was raising for a relative. I’m not sure what became of them. I’ve been searching for his obituary all day and still haven’t managed to find it.

I still have a hard time accepting the fact that a person who appeared to enjoy arguing that much, while at the same time playing everything off like he just didn’t care, killed himself. People really must be layered like onions, leaving only the tough skin visible. I’d never have imagined he would react in this way. How well do we know the people we are only friendly, but not very close, with? Sometimes I think most of the details I have about people are nothing but my assumptions of them. Reality doesn’t always measure up perfectly.

Room to Write - "Inside Out" and Write Brain Workbook - "Circle Game"

Room to Write’s prompt for exercise “Inside Out” - Describe a place impossible to enter; the center of an erupting volcano, the fifth dimension. Turn the experience inside out. Let your imagination float and anchor it to what is feasible.

See if you can guess what it is I’m describing.


It is dark like night, and understandably cold. I stand atop a crisp, flat expanse of land, dusky green but for the lines of silver shot through at precise, deliberate angles.

In the air I smell faint traces of ozone or other remnants of explosive reaction. There is a sense of active travel here, though not by human feet. It is the travel of tiny particles, through the ground and through the air, and a dry wind blows across my face from somewhere far away, bringing with it a volley of dust to fill my lungs and drop me to my knees, coughing.

I hear clicks and whirrs, piercing beeps and low, insectile buzzing. All the while, softly, as if halfway imagined, I hear a tap-tap-tapping, somewhere in the direction of the sky. Though it is a familiar sound, I cannot exactly place it, and the rhythm finds its way like a persistent worm into my ear and wraps itself around my brain.

So familiar, yet so alien. Almost as if a dream given life.

I hear voices, too, without a doubt human, though they are layered on top of one another like leaves in a wet pile. They stick together, become one lump, and then break apart at odd intervals. Some sing jingles, some scream, some are intertwined with instruments that shift and blend and distort. I am at a loss.

There is nothing here for me to lift, nothing to taste. It is all smooth, dark expanse interspersed with silver lines and ridged square bumps here and there. Occasionally small, round nodes stick up from the ground in geometric patterns like the avant garde artwork of an alien civilization. Still, something strikes me as familiar. Something I have seen before lurks here just below the surface, something so commonplace that it would make sense to forget it as thoroughly as I have. Something I may have seen or experienced a thousand times, ingrained into myself so that it only lurks now in the farthest recesses of my mind.

I turn my face heavenward, towards the rhythmic tapping, and realize. But it is impossible...


I picked up a neat new writing prompts book called The Write-Brain Workbook by Bonnie Neubauer. It’s a neat book, exceptionally creative, complete with full-color graphics and odd backgrounds for each page. It’s a bit like a more complex Mad Libs coupled with prompts taken from fiction workshops. The book is designed so that you can write directly on the page, but being the anal-retentive book archivist that I am I’ve been typing mine up. I’m still undecided on whether or not I’m going to go from the beginning to the end in order or if I’m going to bounce around in my typical fashion, but I have done the very first exercise. It’s called “Circle Game”

I had to pick one word each out of three sets of four-word options, and then use them in an exercise. My choices were exorcist, garage and keepsake. I had to start the exercise off with the line Sometimes I feel just like a gerbil, running around and around on his wheel!


Sometimes I feel just like a gerbil, running around and around on his wheel!

It took a few weeks for me to convince anyone to hire the exorcist. I'd found his advertisement in the back of one of those funny comics magazines, the ones that make fun of movies and tv shows. Like Mad or Cracked, only a little cheaper. The ad was a tiny black and white square, not much bigger than a postage stamp, and it had a headline in large block letters.


Whatever that meant. I wasn't sure. But ever since things started rearranging themselves in the garage when we left for the day, I knew an exorcist was something we could benefit from. I wasn't much concerned with the rest of the things he claimed he could do, so long as he could put an end to the poltergeisting.

I called off sick from work, which wasn't really so much of a lie as it was a slight exaggeration. The goings-on had really done a number to my stomach, and even though relief was right around the corner I couldn't help but feel the white-hot jolts to my stomach. Please let this be over soon, I thought to myself as I picked up the phone and dialed the number at the bottom of the tiny ad.

There was a hiss and crackle as my phone connected to another somewhere out there in the universe. It ended abruptly as someone picked up, blissful silence followed by a soft, dry voice that sounded like it was crawling out from below me somewhere deep in the earth.

“Yes?” My ears had to strain to hear it completely.

“Um, yes, is-is-is this Edwin Morvack?”

“Yes, it is.” I could swear the voice was smiling, faintly.

“Um, well, yes, I found your ad in a magazine and I thought that you could help me.” There was no immediate reply, so I soldiered on, in rapid and horribly nervous fashion. “Okay, well, I have a poltergeist in my garage. Well, I'm fairly sure it's a poltergeist. It destroyed an heirloom mirror my great-grandmother bought when she'd first been married, and then tore the legs off a vanity dresser that belonged to my grandmother. It's shuffled some other stuff around, here and there, but I haven't found anything else broken yet. I hear it start moving as soon as I leave the house but by the time I get back it's long gone.”

“I see.”

I waited. There was no other reply. “Well, um, yes, I was wondering if that was something your 'exorcist' expertise might cover. I'm really not well-versed in all of this spirit and ghost stuff, so I'm not sure I called the right person, but there aren't a whole lot of alternatives, you know?” I chucked self-consciously. “Is this something you think you might be - “

“I will be there in an hour,” the soft voice said. It felt like the smile had broken into a grin, but there was no evidence. The actual sound of it hadn't changed at all. And then, suddenly, my ear was full of the symphonic hissing that had preempted the call.

He'd be here, in an hour?

I hadn't told him where I lived.


I really need to make more time for writing exercises. I feel very accomplished when I finish one, and that sense of having done something worthwhile with my time can carry me throughout an entire day.

Exercises aside, I’d like to be spending more time as well on novel writing. Teahouse’s rough draft is completed and the first chapter (and request for beta readers for the entire work) will be released to Critters on April 29th. I’m hoping to receive some helpful feedback that way, though I’ve already identified several points in the novel where I need to add chapters to flesh out the characters. I’d like to expand the word count by thirty to fifty percent, if possible.

Rain has been a bit slower to progress, but it’s still somewhat of a back burner project and really always has been. I’m up to twenty-two shorter chapters with that one and will be resuming work on it in the next couple of weeks, after I’ve drawn up some ideas for additional Teahouse material. Two of my biggest personality flaws are my inability to remain organized and the flip-flop way I handle almost everything in my life. I flit back and forth from thing to thing like some sort of crazed bumblebee, and it takes me forever to get anything done. I’d really like to work on that a bit, maybe force myself to become more structured. I’d like to be able to actually see progress instead of having it come agonizingly slowly because I can’t pay attention to one solitary thing for more than two days straight.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fried Flowers

For years I’ve been a bit obsessed with the idea of edible flowers, with an emphasis on dandelions. I’ve loved them since I started yanking them out of the ground and flinging them at people as a child. There’s something admirable in their tenacity, their refusal to budge when the whole world is against them.

They’re the noblest of weeds, for sure.

Personally, I don’t really consider them a weed. They’re too attractive, too full of nutrients, too useful. Only someone obsessed with homogenizing their suburban lawn should ever call them a weed, and even then it would be a label borne of ignorance.

They are delicious. I finally found out for myself today.

An egg. A cup of milk. A cup of flour. That’s really all you need, aside from a pot and a half inch of olive oil on medium heat. I suppose you could use some salt and pepper or some kind of tempura broth if you felt like being fancy with your cooking, but this time I kept it bare bones. I picked the nicest flower heads I could find and gently shook off any tiny ants that were nestled inside, brought them in and rinsed them and then trimmed off the stalks. I fried them gently in batches of six to ten heads at a time, turning them over when they became golden brown.

The taste is very gentle, not bitter at all. It reminds me of the vegetable tempura from Sushi Tomo, actually. I think next time I make this recipe I’ll have to break out the tempura batter and panko crumbs I have stashed away in my cupboard.

I really hope I can convince someone else to eat these with me, because I don’t think I should scarf them all down myself. Still, it’s tempting.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

1000+ Words "The Long Finger"

I wanted to do a short writing exercise on the concept of missing limbs after reading Max Barry’s “Machine Man.” Inspiration comes at the oddest times, and from the oddest places. I have a lot of fun with these exercises (and all writing exercises, really) because of their “no pressure” nature, and in the end I usually turn out something that is not only fun to create but isn’t hard on the eyes, either. If only the stuff I work on seriously was this easy, I may not be so stressed out all the time.

The Long Finger

It all begins the day I lose my finger.

I don't have that many memories about the accident, to be honest. I can remember the drive to work that leads up to it, the unscheduled stop at a fast-food place for a breakfast sandwich and the stop light I got stuck sitting at. I was in the lead, with several cars behind me. I can also remember a glimpse out of the corner of my eye at a box truck with Erotic Party Services painted in soft pastels on it gliding down the steep downtown hill towards the same light, from my left. I can remember pulling out into the intersection when the light turned green, but that's where it becomes fuzzy, as if someone is standing above it all with a bright halogen lamp, erasing details in a blinding white glare.

My memories return a few days later. My mother is there, dark bluish bags under her eyes, half-asleep in one of those uncomfortable hospital chairs that keep your back ramrod-straight. I immediately wish I am still asleep, because my roommate is cursing loudly and uncontrollably from behind the curtain that separates us. Later on my mother will tell me that the poor girl was in a crash not unlike mine, only involving a motorcycle and a Beetle (the new kind, not vintage) full of drunk college students, and she has some kind of neurological damage that causes her to drop the f-bomb loudly without realizing she's doing so.

I expect the worst, but most of the damage consists of scrapes along my face and torso. My car is gone. I'd just finished paying it off a few months prior and was so happy to have the title in my mini safe. Now, it is worthless.

It takes a few hours for me to realize there is something wrong. Nobody has pointed it out to me, not my mother, not the nurse who's checked my vitals several times. My doctor, I am sure, would have told me by now but he or she has not been in to see me just yet. Phantom sensations can cloud your perception, I am told, and this is why it has gone unnoticed by me for so long.

I am missing the pinky on my right hand. It is completely gone, sheared off where it meets the hand. Almost as if it never existed. I turn my hand over and over, examining from multiple angles, hoping I'm wrong, but knowing I'm not. The bandaging is wrapped tightly, and I can tell there is nothing there, despite feeling like there is.

I look at my mother, slightly irritated.

She sighs and looks away. She is afraid and unsure what to say to me.

* * *

My options are limited, and time narrows it down more. My doctor, a young eastern European woman with a faint accent and a neatly-upswept bun, tells me that I can live without a finger, wear a prosthesis or attempt a transplant. If I choose the latter, she tells me, I need to do so quickly. There is a viable finger available, but it needs to be transplanted now.

I am the impatient type. I am also the don't-second-guess-yourself type. I go with the transplant.

* * *

It is a success. I now have a new finger. It is slightly thinner than the others, and just a smidge longer. It is obviously a woman's finger. I wonder if they cross genders for limb and digit transplants. Looking at my own tiny girlish hands, I wonder what it would be like to have a thick, hairy pinkie sticking out at the end of my hand.

The days go by and I get to use the digit more and more. I am told not to strain it, or lift heavy objects. Just exercise it a bit, the doctor tells me. Her name is Doctor Elishka. I think she may be Russian. That could also be her first name. I'm not sure, and I never ask.

After a few weeks, everything besides my finger is healed completely. My face is unmarred, and the various cuts and scrapes on my body have faded. All that is left now is to learn to use my new digit. I call it my “long finger.”

This long finger is not so easily integrated with the rest of my hand. I find it difficult to control, stubborn, unwilling to move at my command. It is frustrating, because I've been under the impression that once it heals it will move as fluidly as the rest of my body, almost without notice.

This is not so.

I spend several hours a day grappling with my new finger, bending it to my will, forcing it to discontinue its habit of sticking out from my hand at an embarrassing angle. After a few days it seems sufficiently tamed, and I take it to the task of touching things and lifting small items. Everything seems to be working well enough.

A few weeks later, at breakfast, I idly scratch my eyelid with my long finger. It's not itchy, but I do it anyway. It's an old habit of mine, scratching my face gently while I'm daydreaming.

A few minutes later my eyelid begins to itch something fierce.

I wash my hands and try to stay away from the eyelid, but I end up rubbing until it's red and puffy. I spend the night trying to fall asleep only to be distracted by the soreness and persistent itching. By morning it has subsided enough to ignore for long stretches. I force myself not to touch it again.

The following day I am sitting idly at the kitchen table again. I have finished my morning tea and, on a whim, decide to test the strength of my new finger. This is the first time I will have picked up and held something with that finger alone.

I loop my new pinky through the handle of my light china teacup. It is a cheap imitation of a piece of formal tableware, and I am not too concerned about dropping it. It does not drop from my finger though, as my new digit is surprisingly strong. It is just like any other finger, I suppose, only it once did not belong to me. I have difficulties wrapping my head around this concept.

I watch in silence as the first crack on the handle forms, and then another, followed by several more. In the span of a few moments it appears as if a thousand tiny rivers have suddenly formed on the china's surface before it all crumbles apart. The cup lands on the carpeted floor below, intact save for the handle that has disintegrated into nothing.

Later on that same day, after showering, I am leaning in close to the mirror over the bathroom sink. I am scouring my face for blemishes and checking on my eyelid. All redness and swelling is gone from my eye, and it doesn't seem like I have anything on my face. As I wipe the steam that continues to form from the mirror's glass, I notice something odd. I pause, my hand still on the mirror.

Cracks. Tiny cracks. Radiating from the right side of my hand.

I pull away as the mirror spiderwebs into dozens of growing fractures, and I am halfway out of the room when the first glass piece falls from the mount on the wall. I run into the garage for a cardboard box, and as I put the pieces in and sweep up what is left with a hand broom I begin to wonder.

Call me superstitious, call me foolish and irrational, but now I feel I need to check.

I look all over my house and belongings to see if anything else is amiss. What else has this finger touched recently?

Several keys on the right hand side of my laptop keyboard are visibly warped.

The right-hand side of my car's steering wheel cover, the one with the flower petals embroidered on it, is unraveling and shredding in several small places.

The very end of my toothbrush appears to be melting, as is the very end of my hairbrush.

It seems to be too much to be coincidence, but too little to be panic-worthy. I begin a small series of tests to confirm the impossible. I run my hand over several things, waiting to see what happens.

I grab a coffee cup and, once again, it falls apart. I move on to flatware, and several pieces lose their luster and appear as if being held under a flame as I run my long finger over them.

I rest my hand on the front door and a small, barely noticeable scorch mark appears. It could almost be mistaken for a natural darkness in the wood if viewed by someone else.

I go out on the porch and run one final test. A few years before I quit smoking, I made several ashtrays in a pottery workshop I attended once a week. I still have one, and it sits outside atop my patio table. It is grey and black and has a flat, glossy surface. It is the largest ashtray I made in the class.

I extend my long finger and draw two perpendicular lines across the ashtray. For a moment, there is nothing, and then it shivers, extending tiny cracks along my imaginary lines, finally falling apart into four dusty pieces.

I go in the house and wrap my hand in a thick bandage. I am shaking, nervous, excited. Mostly I am afraid, afraid of where this finger may have come from and what I will find when I ask. I am also afraid Doctor Elishka will refuse to tell me anything, or that I will have to have the finger removed. Not being able to touch something without damaging it is frightening. It makes me feel isolated. I am now worried about my ability to return to work or live a normal life. Many things flash through my mind, few of them positive.

I sit at my kitchen table, my phone in my awkward left hand, and dial the hospital.