What your sleep position says about you

1. You are generous and fair, with the courage of a lion and the grace of a swan. You are thoughtful, inquisitive and a loving individual. Yet despite all your tremendous qualities, you are haunted by an emptiness because you have never been able to recapture that world-altering sense of awe you felt when you were five years old and realized your friends’ moms had first names.

2. Among your peer group, you are most likely to dress up as Ellen DeGeneres.

3. You are either the type of person who double-spaces between paragraphs and also indents or the type of person who is really bothered by this. Either way, not great.

4. Sometimes while you are sleeping, you spontaneously change gender.

5. You will compose a jukebox musical based on the songs of The Clash about a wedding band that keeps hitting up the reception guests for free drinks; working title: Rock the Cash Bar.

6. You are embarrassed by your laptop log-in password but don’t know how to change it.

7. You have had your pillow stolen more times than you care to recall.

8. You’re not much of a morning person; people shouldn’t even try talking to you until your coffee’s kicked in, and that usually doesn’t happen until you get to work. It’s super busy at the office first thing, so maybe catch up later? Mid-morning is your most productive time, like, really in the zone. Lunch is “you time,” so people really need to respect your space. Who has energy to do anything between 1 and 4, am I right? On the commute home, that’s the only time you can listen to – I mean, really focus on – your music. In the evenings, you’re so exhausted you just want to veg in front of the TV. You describe yourself as a people person.

9. You don’t ask guests whether they want cream and sugar in their coffee, you just do it.

10. You own multiple cats and suspect they are responsible for the pillow thefts.

11. You have a theory that in the film The Breakfast Club, Vice-Principal Gleason is especially irritable during that Saturday morning detention because he has been dealing all week with a parent campaign to ban certain books from the curriculum, and that’s why you’ll notice there are no copies of Judy Blume’s Forever on the bookshelves of the school library!

12. After years of watching reruns, you know the first line of the “Friends” theme song is “So no one told you life was going to be this way [clap-clap-clap-clap],” but you’re not sure whether the second line is “The fish I caught the most turned out to be a ray” or “Your boss he thought the boat belonged to Michael Bay” or “An albatross’s coat, it just won’t fly away” or “Your opposite approach will sometimes be one-way” or “If no one mows the moat, it just might be like hay” or “You’re not supposed to choke on pasta bolognese” or “La bob bee-doe bee-dope, bee-bop-bop bee-doo-daaaay.”

13. You are shy but gentle and have had many conversations with amphibians.

14. You’re average at… you know.

15. Your idea of a pickup line is, “Hey, baby, how about you and me stimulate the economy…”

16. And by “you know,” we mean “chess.”

17. You will fall in love with a medical professional while having a painful, red swelling drained; abscess makes the heart grow fonder.

18. You think oxygen is overrated.

Posted in Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Click the damn links!

Yesterday’s post was uncharacteristically somber, so I thought I would lighten things up here and simultaneously promote myself. So it’s a win-win for everyone! Especially me!

First up, over at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, I was inspired by all the books I will never get around to reading. What’s on your not-gonna-read list for 2020?

Maybe This Will Be the Year I Finally Get Around to Continuing Not to Read Ulysses

Today, I have a piece at Points in Case, inspired by the lack of innovation in the real estate agent portrait business. Don’t worry, I fixed it.

Hot Trends in Realtor Profile Poses

Please enjoy these bonus tracks. And like most bonus tracks, they are completely unnecessary.

Also, I apologize most sincerely for the title of this post.

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

Down one cat

This is a sad cat story, I’m afraid.

Attentive readers will remember Nellie, one of our five cats, and one on the larger side, so large that she had difficulty cleaning her deepest, darkest regions. First thing every morning, she would follow Deb or me into the bathroom and meow her pitch for personal hygiene. We would proceed to grab a baby wipe and clean her. Who trained whom in this scenario is up for debate.

You’ve probably already noticed I’m using the past tense. Days before Christmas, we chose to end Nellie’s suffering after a sudden and rapid decline.

It started on a Monday when we noticed she wasn’t eating. Nellie not eating was cause for alarm. Just two days prior she had been bopping around the house, climbing up on us, being smelly, making serious eye contact and chatting with us like the loquacious cat she was. But now she was lethargic and dull.

Nellie at the vet. You can see where they had to shave under her neck to draw blood.

On Wednesday, I took her to the vet in Coaticook. I can’t say enough good things about those people, not just this time but any time we’ve had a sick animal. I explained the situation. They had a struggle getting blood, her pressure was so low. Her results were all over the place. But worst of all, they discovered that her abdomen was full of fluid, a likely indicator, the vet said, of some kind of advanced cancer.

We went over our options, and, after calling Deb, we decided to bring Nellie home, essentially for goodbyes. We were given supplies to keep her as comfortable as possible for as long as we could: anti-inflammatories, painkillers, appetite stimulant and saline fluid that I was to inject under her skin to keep her hydrated. It’s not something I thought I’d be comfortable doing, but when something is suffering you put squeamishness aside.

Maybe I was simply now hyper-aware, but Nellie seemed to worsen even from the time we left for the vet to the time we came home. She continued to deteriorate. Over the next two days, she got weaker and weaker, no longer willing or able to eat even cat treats. It was hard to watch and, when she yowled plaintively, difficult to hear.

On Friday, I convinced Deb that it was time. We drove together to the vet. We didn’t want to shove Nellie in the cage for her last trip, so we lined a cardboard box with a towel, and Nellie and Deb drove in the back seat. At the vet, Deb held the cat as the vet sedated her, and when it was time, we stayed with her, stroking her fur, until Nellie was quietly gone.

We weren’t prepared for this. Nellie and her two sisters are only 11 years old. We expected that they would age slowly, that we would accustom ourselves to their eventual leaving. Deb always referred to them as “my girls,” and she took it—is still taking it—incredibly hard.

“Who’s going to follow me to the bathroom every morning?” she sobbed that first evening.

(She’s okay with me writing about this. She requested only that I ask people not to talk to her about it.)

It’s in the nature of pets to leave us. You would think that with four cats remaining and a dog, we wouldn’t really notice, particularly me, who has been pretty clear about my ambivalence towards them.

Still we think of her every morning when we scoop out four slops of tinned mush instead of five. When no cat hops up on the stairway newel post to greet us home. When no cat meows back when you meow at her. When I look under the bathroom sink and find baby wipes. When I look at the cover of my latest book and see Nellie sitting front and centre. When we get to June on the Town of Stanstead calendar and have 30 days of Nellie standing on my back, a photo I submitted last year as a lark, never imagining that it would turn into a kind of in memoriam.

Losing a pet is a sort of amputation. It requires healing, for some of us longer than others.

As a precaution, we’ve since taken Nellie’s sisters to the vet, and all seems well. If anything, they’ve suddenly become more affectionate—or at least with me. Recently, Ollie (thankfully the lightest of the siblings) has been seeking me out whenever I’m reclined somewhere with a book. She rubs her face against my beard, which feels nice (for her), and eventually settles purring on my chest. Polly has been doing it too, lately, though she’s a heavier cross to bear.

And here’s the really weird thing:

I’ve been letting them.

Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , | 39 Comments

A meeting with my internal editor

Ross’s Internal Editor: Hello, Ross. Happy New Year. Thanks for taking the time to see me.

Ross Murray: Well, the mirror was right there, so no problem.

RIE: Is this a good time? You seem to be struggling with that colourful-billed North Atlantic seabird.

RM: Oh, it’s fine. It’s because today is January 9, the 15th Day of Christmas.

RIE: You mean…

RM: It’s Epuffiny

RIE: I see. Yes, well, that’s as good a segue as any to discuss why I’ve asked to see you today.

RM: Again, the mirror was right in front of me…

RIE: We were all so pleased that you took two weeks off from your blog, especially since you mentioned that you’d be using that time to reflect on how best to apply your ample talents.

RM: Actually, that was a typo; it was supposed to read “my pineapple talents.”

RIE: Be that as it may –

RM: I can also perform marvels with mangos.

RIE: Be that as it may, we were pleased you were undergoing this period of reflection because, well… Before I go on, let me just say how much we’ve all enjoyed hearing stories about your family and your household over the years.

RM: Even the cats?

RIE: Oh, sure, the cats too. Your satire could sometimes be a bit of a head-scratcher but most people got it. Sometimes you could be really silly but who doesn’t like some silliness now and then?

RM: My cousin Rodney. He’s been anti-silly since 1987.

RIE: Well, you can’t please everyone. My point, Ross, is that, while readers have never fully known what to expect from you as a blogger – which is unusual in a blog format, you have to admit – they could at least count on something entertaining to distract them from the cares of our worrisome world.

RM: Thanks! That was beautiful. Maybe you should be the writer, Internal Editor!

RIE: Not so fast. You see, over the past few months, Ross, you’ve gotten… weird.

RM: Weird?

RIE: Weird. Bizarre. Perplexing. I mean, a Hallmark Christmas romance with a turkey? An imagined world without soap? Burgeoning tire rims?

RM: “Rimageddon,” I should have said.

RIE: No, you shouldn’t have. I can go on, Ross.

RM: So can Rodney.

RIE: Consequently, when you said you were taking two weeks off, we all expected you’d come back refreshed, revitalized –

RM: Rezoned as a heritage property.

RIE: Please focus, Ross. We thought you’d be back in form, especially with all the children home for Christmas. Surely shenanigans would ensue.

RM: Some of us caught a cold. But not me. I was inoculated. With cheese.

RIE: I don’t see how –

RM: So much cheese…

RIE: Regardless, we had high hopes. And yet I’ve taken the liberty of reviewing what you’ve been working on for your first week back.

RM: Umm, it’s not finished yet…

RIE: Let’s see what you have here: you start with a whole paragraph on spaghetti squash.

RM: Can you believe until two weeks ago I’d never tried spaghetti squash? I was always like, “Who are you trying to kid, squash?” But now I am totally on board the squash-noodle train. Toot toot!

RIE: But then you worry about how much water might be consumed in their industrial production and whether the vegetables are grown in inhumanely cramped quarters.

RM: You know: squashed.

RIE: From there, you suggest you could do your bit to reduce needless consumption by “making judgey faces at shoppers at the cash.”

RM: Have you seen my judgey face? It’s very high-horse.

RIE: And somehow this all leads to your announcement that you will be dedicating yourself to the field of competitive rhythmic gymnastics.

RM: It’s all about the sequins. Oh, and by the way, I’m very lithe.

RIE: Hang on –

RM: My wife is always telling people, “He lithe all the time!”

RIE: You didn’t actually write this part yet, but I know for certain that you were planning to incorporate the fact that an Archie’s Double Digest has sat on your bathroom shelf since 2005.

RM: Happy 15th Archieversary!

RIE: None of it makes sense!

RM: I know! I mean, Betty and Veronica are both smart, confident young women. Why would they waste their time on a nogoodnik like Archie?

RIE: Ross. We’re worried about you. Can’t you just write some nice stories about your life?

RM: But the house is empty now. It’s quiet. It’s just Deb and me, the dog and the cats.

RIE: So write about the cats.

RM: The cats? Really? We’re not tired of the cats?

RIE: You can never have too many cats.

RM: That’s what my wife says.

RIE: So we’re good?

RM: Fine. 2020: The Year of the Cat.

RIE: Great.

RM: By Al Stewart.


Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Your Desperation Christmas Gift Guide

Now with bonus graph paper!

Deb and I agreed a long time ago that we would only do stockings for each other at Christmas. But, lo and behold, every Christmas morning, there’s a present for me under the tree marked from the dog or the cats. The only problem is: the pets do a lousy job shopping for my wife.

So if you’re like our household beasts, you’re probably running around looking for last-minute gifts and dragging your rear across the carpet floor. I can’t help you with the latter, but I can offer some gift suggestions so you don’t end up in the doghouse. (Get it?)

Infinite Pot
Hot on the heels of last year’s Instant Pot craze, the Infinite Pot creates perfect meals every single time – somewhere among an infinite number of alternate timelines. Will it be the timeline you’re currently in with your guests impatiently waiting as your partner stalls by explaining the intricacies of crop rotation? Or will it be the timeline in which you convince Paul McCartney not to write “Wonderful Christmastime” and are hailed an international hero? And in which timeline will your meatballs be succulent? What about Paul McCartney’s? Only time and space will tell.

Electric Hangers
Tired of peering into your closet on these drab winter mornings unable to tell your navies from your browns from your charcoals and your greens, and you end up just grabbing something and throwing it on, and then you get outside and look at yourself in the grey light of another dreary morning and say to yourself, “This outfit doesn’t go together at all!” but you go to work anyway and feel self-conscious all day, so much so that you blow that important presentation on crop rotation, thereby jeopardizing not just your career but your family life as you spiral deeper and deeper into depression and substance abuse? No? Just me then? Either way, illuminated hangers are wicked cool!

Modern-design loveseat located in the Winners department store showroom, Sherbrooke, Quebec, with refined medium-grey linen-like fabric, low-profile armrests and high-density foam cushions containing pocket coil springs and one accidental fart.

All-Vegan Himalayan Pink Salt Crystal Air Purifying Musical Meditation Nightlight
Based on ancient Tibetan folk wisdom that someone really should have written down, this crystal meditation nightlight takes negative ions, transforms them into sarcastically judgemental ions and finally into ions with contrary opinions they wisely keep to themselves. An all-natural product with the proven healing properties of driveway gravel. Plays “The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Loofahs” and the Dixie Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl.”

Perennials for Millennials
An assortment of plants in starter kits that never leave their starter kits or produce offshoots. Also available: Germination X, plants that will only grow if they can do so ironically; and OK Bloomer: plants that take up all the nutrients and oxygen and do everything in their power to make the garden like it was in the good old days, which really weren’t that good in the first place.

Animatronic International Santa Figurine
Delight your family, friends and crop rotation specialists as they hear how Santa Claus laughs around the world:
USA: Ho Ho Ho
Greece: HΩ HΩ HΩ
Wales: Hglghauchgh Hglghauchgh Hglghauchgh
Germany: […]
UK and obstinate parts of Canada: Hou Hou Hou
France: Je ho, tu ho, il ho, nous ho-ons, vous hoez, ils hoent
China: “Ho Ho Ho.” “Yes?”
Australia: oH oH oH
Russia: I will laugh: Ho. You will be merry now.

Hilarious humour collection by beloved local author featuring, sure, essays you could probably find online, but without having to weed through the weird, lame ones, like this, plus the author is really hoping to make some money on the venture so the cats can buy his wife a decent Christmas present for once.
Hey, it was worth a shot.

Posted in Holidays | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Home for the Hollandaise: A Hallmark Christmas Movie

I know what you’re thinking: what’s a beautiful, successful New York gal like me doing in a Podunk town like Blamperville? I asked myself the same question when I first got here. Being a beautiful, successful New York journalist with unlimited vacation days, I came back home that early December to help my aging ferrets move out of the cardboard box they had raised me in – the only box I had ever known.

“We need a smaller, more practical box, Selina,” said my dad ferret. “Your mother and I just can’t shred newspaper like we used to.” And then he crawled up my pant leg.

None of my beautiful, successful New York friends know I was raised in Blamperville by ferrets. I mean, it’s embarrassing: Blamperville! And I have to admit for the first few days, I put on airs around the Blampervillians with their small-town ways like “saying hello” and “walking.”

“I just need to get my parents settled into their new box,” I told myself. “Then I can get back to the Big Apple, which is what we beautiful, successful journalists call the New York.”

Every day, as I walked from the rooming house owned by a little old lemming to my parents’ new shoebox, I passed a Christmas tree lot. And every day, I would see a particular tree, a handsome tree: six-foot-five, strong limbs, nice trunk. And the tree would call out to me. Not literally; it was a tree.

Still, I was here for my ferrets, not romance. I wasn’t looking for anything seasonal. Don’t get me wrong; I like evergreens: pines, firs, spruce. But not yews. I’m just not that into yew.

One morning, I walked into the local grocery run by a gerbil I went to high school with, Marguerite. “Oh, Selina,” said Marguerite, “you’re so successful and beautiful, not to mention human. What a life you must lead in New York or… what do you call it? The Big Celery Stick?”

“That’s right, Marguerite,” I said, not wanting to embarrass or step on her. “My life is fulfilling and adventurous.”

“Remember how we talked about kids? You wanted four and I wanted none? And look at me now: seventeen little ones, and you, you’re stuck in the…”

“Rat race?”

Marguerite stared at me, hurt. “You’ve changed, Selina,” she said. Or at least I think that’s what she said, because she had by then stuffed her mouth with five pounds of sunflower seeds.

I was mulling what my old friend had said when I walked past a freezer tub, and there I saw the most gorgeous frozen turkey: skin-tight wrapper; plump, meaty legs; containing up to 9.5% of a solution of turkey broth, sodium phosphate and flavouring. I found myself picturing his giblets.

Never go shopping hungry! I told myself. But I couldn’t help it. “Hello,” I purred. Nothing; that frozen turkey gave me the cold shoulder.

Flustered, I left the store. I walked past the Christmas tree lot again. My tree was still there. Such cute cones. Smelled nice, too. “See you later, tree,” I cooed to his waving branches.

I couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that turkey. The next morning, as I was bringing shiny objects to my ferrets for their new box, I stopped in the grocery again. Marguerite darted underneath the cereal shelves, clearly still upset. But I didn’t care; I just wanted my turkey. I couldn’t wait to take him home and pry his neck out of his cavity, if you know what I mean.

The next three days were a blur, just me and my turkey, cuddling. He pretended to be tough, but before long he was thawing in my arms. “Come back with me to the New York,” I whispered. He got goosebumps. Well, technically turkeybumps.

But after three days, he began to turn. “You’re not the turkey I fell in love with,” I cried. “You’re bad. You’re no good for me. You’re no good for anyone.” Tears came to my eyes, possibly due to the smell. “I think you should leave,” I said. He didn’t budge. “I said you should go!” Still he didn’t move. Because he was a thawed turkey. “Fine. I’ll go.” And I left, without dressing.

Not knowing where I was headed, I found myself at my Christmas tree. “You’ve always been there for me,” I sobbed. “Or at least, for the last week. You’re what I need in my life. Something solid. Something I can stick with. Because of the sap.”

And so I hugged that tree as the people of Blamperville cheered. I’m not sure where they came from or why they were so interested but it was beautiful. Mariah Carey sang.

I brought that tree to my ferrets and set it up right beside their new box, where they could scamper up and down it for the rest of their lives or until all the needles dropped off. Even Marguerite and her seventeen little ones joined in.

And me, I never did go back to the New York but became a successful Christmas tree farmer. Still no children, but I do have a nursery.

And what does hollandaise sauce have to do with anything? Nothing, but it was a good title, and that’s the true meaning of Christmas.


Since you made it this far, don’t forget to order your copy of A Jerk in Progress, an ideal stocking stuffer if you have a particularly odd-shapped stocking to stuff. Pretty good turkey stuffer, too, to be imperfectly honest.

Posted in Holidays, Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

It’s a Wonderful Soap

Looks delicious

Donning my traditional Christmas shopping outfit (elf shoes with bells; tights; that’s it), I set out on the weekend to look for gifts at some of the holiday markets that pop up this time of year. I entered the first church basement and began to circulate, making sure to not make eye contact with the vendors who stared like rabid, bloodthirsty hounds – but in a good way.

I glanced at the first kiosk: soap. An assortment of colourful, handmade soaps. Packages in pyramids, balls in buckets, slabs in spittoons. You can’t go wrong with soap, I thought.

I moved along. Huh: another soap vendor. “Luxurious Lavender,” “Pampered Peppermint,” “Gentle Giblets.” A soap for every taste.

Then another soap vendor, then another. I stepped back. I apologized for stepping on that woman’s foot. I stepped back again. I looked around. The kiosks: they were all selling soap!

I made my way to the next market. The community centre reeked of oils and perfumes. I walked around the room, fearing the worst. Soaps, soaps, soaps, nothing but soaps. Aha! Fudge! Finally, a non-soap vendor. I picked up a rich slab of chocolate and took a generous bite.

“Ah, sir?” said the vendor. “That’s soap. Also, you’re supposed to pay first.”

“Don’t make eye contact!” I shouted frothingly and fled.

Every market I visited: exclusively soaps. Where were the doilies? The table runners? The wreaths made out of old plastic grocery bags? Where were the pieces of driftwood with googly eyes glued to them? Nowhere. Instead, a surfeit of soaps.

“I wish soap had never been invented!” I shouted overreactingly. And that’s when I was asked to leave the building. I returned home, dejected, smelling vaguely of patchouli.

The next morning, I went to take my shower. When I drew back the curtain, I saw a little man standing in a white robe. Nothing unusual, but I didn’t recognize this particular little man. “Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m Calgon,” said the man. “No suds today. You’re coming with me.” Then he grabbed my hand and pulled me down the drain.

“AAAHHH!” I woke up in my bed. “Whew,” I said narratively, “it was just a dream.”

I went to take my shower, déja-vu-like. Searching around, though, there was no soap. None there. None there. Definitely none there. I was completely latherless. No matter; I smell naturally delicious.

Realizing that, in my suds-induced frenzy yesterday, I had forgotten to pick up gifts for my child’s teachers, I set out again for the Christmas market.

When I opened the school gym door, there was only the whiff of wet boots and childhood fears. The hall was empty save for a sad author sitting at a table surrounded by piles of his latest humour collection that people “liked” on Facebook but never actually bought.

“Where is everyone?” I asked.

“Just me. Wanna buy a book?” he said.

“Who? What? Wallet’s broken. Allergic to vowels. I’ll get back to you,” and I left.

The next market was likewise void of vendors, soapy or otherwise. “But I need gifts for teachers!” I cried. “Teachers love soap. What’ll I do?”

A teacher happened to walk by, conveniently enough. “Wine?” she suggested.

“No, soap! Only soap!”

Back on the street, I saw the woman whose fudge-camouflaged soap I had nibbled the day prior. “You there, soap lady,” I said, gripping her arm accostingly. “Can you make me some homemade soap in assorted shapes and scents?”

“Don’t know no soap,” she slurred, coughing with a tubercular cadence. “I spend my sad days scouring these streets for discarded food bits to put in me artisanal sausages.”

“Sausages! No! Not that! Not you! You had such promise! You were so bubbly!”

“Get away from me, you delicious smelling man,” she yammered and stumbled off.

“But the teachers!” I called. “The mother-in-laws! The aunts! The office Secret Santas! What are we to do without soaps! I’m sorry I badmouthed soaps. Take me back, Calgon! Calgon, take me away!”

Just then, my nostrils were filled with a pungent stench. A group of teenage boys were walking by. They were unwashed – and coated in Axe Body Spray. “NOOOOOOOOO!”

And that was when I woke up. “Whew! Another dream. What are the chances?”

I rushed to the window, threw open the shutters and spied an urchin in Sunday clothes in the cobblestone lane below. “You boy,” I cried out, “what’s today?”

“Why, it’s Buyer Regret Thursday, sir,” called the lad. “But I think you’re in the wrong story.”

Then I’m not too late, I thought. I rushed out to the nearest market and saw soaps. So many soaps! Pink soaps, blue soaps, soaps with honey, soaps with sassafras. Soaps on ropes. Soaps on chains. And I bought them all! “God wash us, every one!” I announced Tiny Timmishly.

And that, honey, is why you’re getting soap for Christmas instead of the diamond you were hoping for. No lye.

Posted in It Could Happen... | Tagged , , , , , , , | 25 Comments