Guest Blogger: Jane Espenson

Hi! Jane Espenson here. Thanks, Jenny, for letting me sit in.

I’ve been invited in to help publicize a new book of essays, edited by me, about Firefly/Serenity. Called “Serenity Found,” you can find it here. And, as long as I’ve dropped by, I thought I’d add a few thoughts to the stellar writing advice you get here at Argh Ink — I adore the writing workshop, don’t you?

Since Jenny specializes in prose, and I, almost exclusively, write scripts (no one really uses the word “teleplays”), I thought I’d talk about the difference between the two forms.

Someone here asked if someone who is good at dialogue should write scripts instead of novels. Not necessarily. After all, it’s not like novels don’t need good dialogue. I think it’s a matter of the form you’re drawn to and the kinds of stories you want to tell. I’ve always read a lot of novels, and as a kid I wrote short stories, but television entranced me. I just knew it was what I wanted to do. Not movies, just television.

Part of the appeal, for me, is that in television, almost always, you’re writing for pre-existing characters while emulating someone else’s writing style. I adore doing this. My favorite writing assignments in school were always of the form, “Rewrite a fairy tale as if written by Robert Penn Warren.” Lovvved it! It’s not bad to want to create your own characters and develop your own style, but if you can have fun manipulating characters and voices that are already in place, then TV writing will be really fun for you. I call it chameleonship. And, of course, it simply isn’t part of what you’d normally get to do in short stories and novels.

As the questioner implies, of course, writing good dialogue is an important skill for script-writing. (Although every now and then one encounters established TV writers who write clunky dialogue and have thrived on good story-telling instead. A friend of mine once described another writer as having the ability to rewrite dialogue until it achieved “the sound of heavy objects falling from a closet.”) Good dialogue-writing skills are partly inborn, I believe, stemming from a good ear for how people talk. But a lot of it is certainly learnable. If you want a character to tell another character “I missed you,” but that’s just too bald a statement for this particular person to make, have them say, “I really– You were gone a long time.” There. By having them start a sentence they never finished, the audience will figure out what they were going to say and pulled back from.

This is actually a special case of a larger rule-of-thumb: people get less articulate, not more, when they’re emotionally moved. Want to write an emotional moment? Increase your quotient of stumbles and restarts.

I believe that even if you did nothing more than adopt that simple trick, you’d see your dialogue take on a fresher sheen. Of course, novels have dialogue, too, so, as I said, the ability to write good dialogue doesn’t mean you necessarily should steer yourself toward the script world.

The kinds of stories you want to tell, though… *there* you might find an actual clue to your career destiny. Perhaps your dream project has a plot summary something like:

A woman gradually comes to terms with the loss of her only child by moving to a vineyard in Tuscany where she communes with the grapes under the shadow of a crumbling castle for twenty years, ultimately realizing that life — like wine — requires patience, and that both are to be savored.

Novel. It takes place over years and requires an expensive location — making it hard to produce (a consideration even in spec scripts. You want to look like you can write to a budget). And, most importantly, it’s hopelessly internal, about unspoken mental changes that aren’t visual.

Now, television can tell internal stories, generally by manifesting internal states in some visible way. On Buffy, we did this by portraying inner demons as outer ones, for example. And many, many shows have adopted the convention of physicalizing mental debates through the use of a hallucinatory-style visit with a dead character. But, in general, television is better at things you can actually see.

The final thing I can think of to help you read your career compass is the process. Much of television writing is collaborative. You “break the story,” i.e. turn an idea into a list of scenes, as a group. And in sitcoms, you even rewrite it as a group. There’s still the solitary experience of going off to turn an outline into a script, but you do have to be able to function in a group. You already know, I’m sure, if that appeals to you or not.

So how does any of this relate to a book of essays about Firefly? Well, if I wanted to tempt any of you away from writing between hard covers, I would point out that every now and then you get to be part of a phenomenon like Firefly, where a show fires so many imaginations that the fans, and the writers, and the actors, and even the critics get to go on a ride that overshoots the planet it was aiming at.


Here are some answers to questions selected and adapted from those you guys submitted to the site:

What do you like to read?

Oh, lots of different things. I have a sizeable commute right now, so I get a lot of unabridged books on tape. My favorite recent read was Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let You Go.” I don’t even want to tell you anything about it — not even the genre. Read it without a set-up, as I did. Brilliant. And, yeah, reading is more relaxing for me than scripted television, which can sometimes feel like homework. Not always, but sometimes.

Recommend a TV show.

I adore Friday Night Lights for its dialogue. 30 Rock is the best comedy since Arrested Development. But I’m lucky enough to be on the best show on television, Battlestar Galactica — check it out for subtle writing. Everything is intricately shaded… moral choices, personal interactions, political nuances. And there are killer alien robots! Whoo!

Favorite Buffy Episode.

Overall: Hush, Once More with Feeling (the musical), Fool for Love
Mine: Harsh Light of Day, Superstar

How far do producers/ writers do research on the viewer’s taste before they get started?

They do focus group testing on the pilots — where groups of recruited viewers give their responses to characters and stories. But these are notoriously bad predictors of success. I think the executives generally end up simply responding to what they like and don’t like. Theoretically this should work, since all of us are television viewers, no matter what our job is. Their taste is likely to be as good an indicator of what viewers want as anyone’s is. I think sometimes maybe we get into trouble when someone (an executive or a writer) tries to guess someone else’s preferences and ends up underestimating them.

Would you sometimes like to show a character in more detail but feel fenced in by the time frame?

Absolutely. If you could see the scenes that are cut from shows right before (or after) shooting, you would see some lovely character moments.

What was it like to work for Gilmore Girls?

It was fun and incredibly educational with respect to story structure. They structured stories in a way I’d never seen before: much, much looser with respect to the traditional rules of drama. What they’d lose in, say, on-screen conflict, they’d gain in verisimilitude — episodes unfolded in a very naturalistic fashion. I learned a huge amount.

(Again about Gilmore Girls) How do you pull off that rapid-fire dialogue?

Write a lot of it and make the actors talk fast. Their scripts were literally almost twice as long as a Firefly, Buffy or Battlestar script. The actors had to be letter-perfect and they had to rocket through it.

Are there big differences in writing comedy for a script as opposed to a novel?

I wish I knew. I’ve observed the same thing this questioner does, that sometimes TV-style comedy on the (prose) page can feel forced. I think maybe some kinds of jokes require the light touch of an actor? I have to think more about this.

Do you think that well-written shows still have a chance on network television?

Certainly, cable has traditionally been the home of quirk. They could afford to focus on a niche audience while the network broadcasters still had to think about the “broad” in their name. But this year some more idiosyncratic offerings came to network, and I think that will continue. And certainly the existence of Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock and The Office should make us all feel very good about the state of network TV.

If you could wave a magic wand and write a sequel to any film or TV series, what would it be and who would be in it?

I would love to see Alien Nation come back — one of the best metaphorical uses of aliens I’ve ever seen. The idea of telling stories about immigrants and other marginalized people through the stories of literal aliens is frakkin’ brilliant. Casting? Oh, how ’bout Nathan Fillion as the human cop and Alan Tudyk as the alien?

As a television writer what impresses you in an episode that the rest of us might not notice? When was the last time you watched tv and thought “gee, I wish I’d written that.” Why did the episode impress you?

Hmm… I’m still raving over the “Three Stories” episode of House from two seasons ago. Brilliant. It impressed me because it had such confidence in its story-telling. Watch it and imagine trying to describe to someone the unfolding of the gradual reveal that House is telling his own story. It sounds crazy. And on screen it works. When you see that, you’re dealing with a confident writer. By the way, if you’re writing a spec script, appearing confident in your skills is a HUGE part of your goal. As big as telling a good story.

What are some of your favorites among the new crop of TV shows (if any)?

I haven’t checked out a lot of them yet, but I enjoyed the Chuck and Reaper pilots. But no matter how good anything is, it’s too early to write a spec for a new show. So watch and wait.

How do you balance giving “secondary” characters enough screen/page time, getting readers or viewers to connect to those characters even though they are maybe not the main “draw” to the show?

You have to keep all your characters in mind as you break the story. Give them a point of view on the events that they witness. In a way, they can be far easier to service, since they can have more extreme, less nuanced points of view. Anya, Paris, Baltar… they can say totally outrageous things that steal the show. It’s not hard to fit them in when you know they’re always going to be interesting.

I read one of your blog posts about exposition — about “hiding the pipe.” Could you elaborate on that some?

Hmm… it’s hard to search my blog, isn’t it? Others have pointed this out. I think I will have to write a book. Something like “Dirty Tricks for Screenwriting,” don’t you think? I’ll keep you posted.

Anyway, I think I found the entry you’re referencing. I talk about avoiding opening a scene with a piece of exposition, as in opening a scene with “Tell me again why we’re lurking outside the Mayor’s house at midnight?” The problem is that you want to get exposition out of the way, to get it all shoved into the reader/viewer’s head so they can understand the scene, so it’s tempting to try to it fast and forcibly. Resist that temptation. Relax and let the reader figure out what’s going on as the scene unfolds. It’s all right for people to be a little confused. They’ll pick it up. Ever join Law and Order 15 minutes in? It’s a totally plot-driven show, and of course they’re making no effort to catch you up… but you do catch up. Readers and viewers are better than we give them credit for at dredging their own exposition out of our words.

If that isn’t enough… if you still need to explain things, try to avoid obvious clunkers like having one character tell another character things they both know. Tell-tale sign, the phrase “as you know…”.

Do you think screenwriting courses such as McKee’s workshop are useful for novelists hoping to try out the screenwriting world as well?

When I was in the ABC/Disney Writing Fellowship the studio sent us all to take the McKee course on their dime. I enjoyed it a lot and learned a lot. My only caveat is that analysis like his can make it all sound very difficult — like you’re going to need a slide rule or something. The truth is, learning to write for television is lot like learning to speak when you’re a baby. You don’t need rules, you need examples. Read enough scripts and study how they lay out their stories. Then formulate your own set of constraints based on what you’re seeing. Try to lay out your own stories so they strain as few of the constraints as possible. Bam! You’ve got a killer spec script!

Thank you, Jenny! I return your stage to you! And thank you, Gentle Readers for your questions and your attention!

Lunch (exclusive for Argh Ink readers): that heirloom tomato salad again

Questions for Jane

Okay, Jane Espenson will be here tomorrow, so now’s the time to post some questions so she knows what you want to talk about. (Can you tell this is my first guest blogger? Not organized here.)

What do you want to know?

On the Road: North Carolina + Coming Attraction!!!!!

Okay, I’m only in NC for the night and damn glad to be off the road since it’s looking like the trip Google said would be ten hours is actually going to be twelve. Did the first six today and can I just say to the people living in Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina, you live in really beautiful states. When it’s gorgeous from the interstate, you know it’s beautiful clean through. For most of the way, I was just sailing, heaven outside the car and Springsteen in. “Thunder Road” was particularly fine. Of course, you miss a lot if you stick to the interstate. I was most tempted by the “Ona Whim Antique Shop” because I couldn’t figured out if Mr. Whim had a sadistic sense of humor when naming his daughter, or if somebody was trolling for impulse shoppers, and I wanted to ask, but I stayed the course.

But enough about me. Someone fabulous is going to be here on Tuesday, Oct. 30, doing the first ever guest blog on Argh Ink:

Jane Espenson!

If you’re a Buffy fanatic, you’re probably doing the fan squee now. Jane wrote “Band Candy,” she wrote “Pangs” (the one with the funny syphilis), she wrote “Earshot” and “I Was Made To Love You,” but that’s just the beginning. She invented Dennis in the Angel episode “RM w/a VU” (one of my all time faves, if only for the way Cordelia snarls the line, “The bitch is back!”), she’s worked on Gilmore Girls and Battlestar Galactica, she contributed to the Tales of the Vampires comics which are wonderful, and she has a brilliant blog at where she gives away her wisdom and experience and what she had for lunch. She is, in short, freaking fabulous.

And on Tuesday, she’s HERE. (Small break while I lie down for a moment to recover.) No, really, she’s going to guest blog here on the difference between writing novels and scripts, and I’m going to ask her about graphic novels, too, because I know that’s a third language. So get your questions lined up now. (That’s why I’m giving you four days notice, although now that I think of it, you’ve never had trouble coming up with questions or comments before, so this may be overkill. Oh, well.)

Oh, and she also wrote the “Shindig” episode of Firefly and has just edited the second collection of essays on Serenity, the movie that followed the criminally short-lived series. The collection is called Serenity Found, and it follows Espenson’s first edited collection Finding Serenity.

SERENITY SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Maybe she can explain why Wash had to die. Not that I’m bitter.


Where was I?

Right. Jane Espenson, guest-blogging here, Oct. 30.

On the Road: The Cherry Con

I know, I haven’t been here. Well, it’s been hectic. The Cherry Con was an absolute riot, including the part where Rox brained herself on a table trying to throw something at somebody, and the part where Rachel brought chocolate from England which I’ve been eating myself sick on ever since, and the part where we all put on boas and glasses with red lights in them and tiaras and basically diva-ed ourselves into hysterics. It was a lot like a three-day-long kid’s birthday party. The flamingo head-boppers were also a hit.

I had a party for the Cherry Forum mods on Wed. night–they work for free, the least I can do is give them a party–and Wolfie has been spoiled rotten ever since. He keeps waiting for fifteen women to show up and tell him he’s a gorgeous boy, and all he gets is me saying, “Get out of the trash.” The mods more than earned their keep by putting together Gaffney’s pony, a joke that got out of hand as usual because none of us knows when to quit. Gaffney introduced me to her agent, and I e-mailed her to thank her and said, “The next time we’re together, I’ll buy you a drink. And dinner. And a pony.” And then I saw this pony on Amazon and thought, “That would be good” and ordered it and then waited until the mod party to put it together. Everybody loved the directions that said that in order to insure the child had a “magical experience” when being introduced to the pony, it should be assembled ahead of time because when you open the damn box, all you see is a headless pony. It gave me pause, I can only imagine what it would do to a three-year-old. Then it had to be assembled and the mods did that while drinking wine and other things, and then we turned it on and it started to move, and I’m here to tell you that pony is freakishly realistic. And large. And while I was trying to figure out how to get it to Pat, Molly volunteered to drop it off on her drive east, so she did that yesterday, stunning Pat and freaking out her dogs. So my work is done, thanks to the mods and especially Molly, who took this picture:

Pony Road

And in the space when we weren’t partying at the con, Krissie and Lani and I worked on Dogs and Goddesses (we decided the sequels will be Cats and Gods and Pharoahs and Ferrets) and went to IHoP and Hobby Lobby. They’re both insane for IHoP but they’d never experienced Hobby Lobby before. They’re now making plans to drive here the next time so they can take more stuff with them on the return trip. We also watched a couple of episodes of Pushing Daisies which is my favorite show since Olive sang “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and told Chi McBride that what he’d just told her wasn’t the Truth Bus, it was the Bitchy Crosstown Express. And Lani had never seen Big Trouble in Little China, so we made her watch it, and after that she walked around the house saying, “Son of a bitch must pay” and my personal favorite, “Sorry, sorry, just thrilled to be alive.”

That was the good news. The bad news is that I cleaned the house for the mod party, but ran out of time so I gathered up everything that I couldn’t put away and put it in, you guessed it, the office. Which once again looks like hell. But I’ll fix it. And the rest of the house looks great. Or it will once I get all the chocolate wrappers out of the kitchen. So there really isn’t any bad news. Just the occasional bitchy crosstown express.

So that’s where I’ve been. Chocolate, IHop, ponies, parties, Hobby Lobby, Pushing Daisies in Little China, and many brainstorming sessions. And good times were had by all. Really, what more could anybody want?

Great Cousins Think Alike

I just got an e-mail from Cousin Russ, aka Russ Parsons whose latest book is How To Pick A Peach, out from Houghton Mifflin:


Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review:

Equal parts cookbook, agricultural history, chemistry lesson and produce buying guide, this densely packed book is a food-lover’s delight. California food writer Parsons (How to Read a French Fry) begins with a fascinating tale of agribusiness trumping our taste buds en route to supplying year-round on-demand produce, and how farmer’s markets are bringing back both appreciation of, and access to, local and seasonal foods. He then takes readers on a delectable season-by-season produce tour, from springtime Artichokes Stuffed with Ham and Pine Nuts to midwinter Candied Citrus Peel, and provides readers with the lowdown on where each fruit or vegetable is grown and how to choose, store and prepare it. Along the way, he detours into low-stress jam making, the chemistry of tomato flavor, a portrait of two peach-growing stars of the Santa Monica farmer’s market and why cucumbers make some people burp. For readers who have always wondered where their food comes from, why it tastes the way it does and how to pick a peach, a melon or a green bean, this book will be an invaluable resource. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

So you should buy it.

Where was I?

Right, so Russ has just read Agnes and the book begins with Agnes’s first column about how a good frying pan is the one thing you need in a kitchen, ending with:

Besides the obvious braising, browning, and frying, I can make sauces and stir frys in it, toast cheese sandwiches and slivered almonds, use the underside to pound cutlets, and in a pinch probably swing it to defend my honor. If I could find a man that versatile and dependable, I’d grab him.

So Russ sends me the first line of one of his early columns from the LA Times:

Wednesday December 08, 2004

Revolution in the kitchen

By Russ Parsons, Times Staff Writer

As far as I’m concerned, there are only two really important decisions in a cook’s life: choosing a mate and buying a chef’s knife. If that seems like an overstatement, you just haven’t found the right knife.

Great cousins think alike. Of course, I can’t make a peanut butter sandwich and Russ can make anything, but still, you can tell we’re cousins. All we think about is food and love. And sometimes, we can’t tell the difference.

Oh, and while you’re buying How To Pick A Peach, get How to Read a French Fry, Russ’s first book. The New York Times gave it a rave for its “affable voice and intellectual clarity” and Julia Child lauded it for its “deep factual information.”

That’s my cousin, folks. I’m very proud.

On the Road: Autumn in New York

Autumn in New York: That song always sounds so melancholy, but the truth is, the city is absolutely gorgeous right now. Of course, it helps that I’m in the Village. I don’t think there’s any season that the Village isn’t gorgeous. I’m here on business and to see my daughter which will be a little bit about business, too, and then home again, just a quick trip because my October is packed. I did something different this time, took a late afternoon flight so that I wasn’t rushing around half asleep, got into the city about six, had a quiet evening alone in the apartment (well, semi-alone, there are people here and they’re lovely), I even watched TV because Mollie wanted me to see Reaper, and then I did some work. For a day of travel, it was completely leisurely, and whenever I have the time, I’m going to do that again. The only mistake I made was drinking Diet Coke with caffeine. It’s a very bad idea to give me caffeine. I tend to go a million miles a minute without it–some of you who’ve heard me speak may attest to that–so that when you give me a drug I’m really sensitive to that speeds me up, I’m pretty much out there with my fingernails in the ceiling, watching lights flash by and talking like an auctioneer. Forget alcohol, caffeine makes me act like a banshee. So sleep was a problem, but I was in New York and very happy, so that was all right, too.

This morning (Wednesday) was terrific. I walked through Chelsea, another area I love, and then had a great meeting with a new agency that is going to be perfect for me. Getting a new agent after twelve good years with your first one is like dating after the end of a good marriage. You really don’t want to play the game any more, you just want to fast forward to the relationship, but since you want another good one, you have to take it slow, get to know each other, kick each other’s tires . . . and now that the tire-kicking is done, I’m thrilled to be at Writer’s House with Amy Berkower and Jodi Reamer. Of course, now I also owe Pat Gaffney a pony for doing the matchmaking. Maybe there’s one on eBay . . .

Then I met my pal Alisa Kwitney at a restaurant called Mustache, and she explained graphic novels to me, which she knows all about because she used to be an editor at Vertigo, a cutting edge comic/graphic novel house. Now, of course, she writes women’s fiction–her latest is Flirting in Cars, you should go buy it–but she’s just done a YA graphic novel and I wanted to know all about it because I am fascinated with the narrative strategies in graphic novels, something I will probably be writing on at length here in the future. I cherish my Hellboy collection, have a sneaking fondness for Tank Girl, think Gaiman’s Death is one of the great female characters of our time, and loved Bechdel’s Fun House, I pretty much read them for pleasure–there’s a concept–instead of taking them apart to see how they worked. But I’ve had this idea for quite a while now about a female cartoonist, and I was researching that on the side and got caught up in how the comic book tells stories which is a completely different from novels or movies–I know, you’re saying “well, duh,” but trust me, it was an epiphany for me–and then I read Scott McCloud’s classic book and realized that the gutters act like the white space in the novel, that a comic is not an illustrated novel, that a good graphic novel allows the reader to leap the spaces between the words and the pictures and co-author the text, and then my head exploded and I thought, I have to try this.

So because Alisa is a good true friend, she came into the city and we talked graphic novels over lunch, and then we walked around the Village, still talking, and found her a kick-ass dress in a boutique–she’s going to wear it to the fantasy con the first weekend in NYC so if you’re going to that be sure to check her out–then came back to the apartment and talked obsessively about writing and novels and life in general for a couple more hours, and finally ate dinner at a sidewalk Thai diner before she caught her train home and I came back to the apartment to work. We were pretty much narrative wonks all day, interspersed with trying on clothes and eating. It was heaven. And tomorrow, I get to see my kid.

So a very productive day in a beautiful city with good food and great people, and my kid to look forward to tomorrow. If there was any chocolate in this apartment, life would be perfect.

Dead Like Huh?

I was cleaning off my desktop computer, trying to sort things into folders so I could find them, and then I printed out everything in the AKMG folder so I could see if the different things I’d written were making any sense. One file that ended up in there was called “Ghosts” so I opened it and found two pieces of scenes–not scenes, just fragments that I’d written down so I wouldn’t lose them–that I have no recollection of writing. I mean, i think I wrote them down so I wouldn’t lose them, they sound like me, especially the last piece, but I not only do not recall having written them, I have no recollection of what I thought the story was going to be. They’re pretty old; the heroine thinks Buffy is still on Tuesday nights and her husband is named Cal (I changed it to Richard to avoid confusion now, so that came before Bet Me which I wrote in 2003. And it’s written in first person which is not like me. But very weird to read something you wrote that you can’t remember ever reading before. Or, disconcertingly, how you thought was going to end. I can’t even tell what the story is going to be about.

See if you can figure it out:

Hi. I’m dead.

That’s me down there in that car. The one with the really high safety rating and the deployed air bag. Really pisses me off.

I realize I had to go sometime. Sometime in the far distant future, when Richard and I had a kid or two, had survived the mid-life crisis affair he was definitely going to have, had paid off the house we were going to get and the kids’ college loans and bail money. After we’d retired someplace nice and warm, like say, Paris, and I’d buried Richard because women live longer than men, and had a passionate affair with a younger man of sixty. And then one beautiful French morning, I’d wake up dead. At like ninety.

Instead here I am at thirty-five with my face stuffed in an air bag. Or rather there I am.

The thing is, I did everything right. I bought the safe car. I never drove drunk. I did not hit the deer. (And I’d like to take this moment to address the apologists for the deer. I know what you’re going to say, I was in his space, the highway cut through his natural habitat, but I’m telling you now that I-75 went in forty years ago and I don’t think deer live that long, so the highway was there first, not the deer. And I still saved its damn life. Or I would have if the semi that was trying to pass me hadn’t take it out. The whole thing is just a mess.) And when I swerved to avoid the deer, I swerved off road so as not to endanger the deer-killing semi driver behind me. I even managed to miss most of the embankment. My air-bag deployed. I should still be alive. And then I have a fucking heart attack at thirty-five.

And to top it all off, it turns out that death is just as annoying as life.
Because here I am, stuck as ever. I’m expecting a transition here, maybe Death will show up and talk to me in all caps, or maybe an angel who looks like Buck Henry, I’ll even take that guy in the black cloak with the scythe who plays chess and twister. Or, and this would be really great, a woman in black cloak who plays pool. Maybe that’s why I’m still here. Maybe I’ve been chosen to be the new Death, the one who plays pool with newly departed, and I’m just waiting for my cue. I’m really not expecting God because we haven’t spoken much since catechism, but I thought there’d be some kind of organization here. Someone showing up with some kind of dearly departed multiple choice, like a banquet dinner card, the afterlife version of Beef, Chicken, Fish or Vegetarian. Maybe harps, opera, pop, or country. Or NBC, PBS, HBO, or Fox. A Cosmo quiz for the hereafter. Choose Your Own Paradise.

I don’t think it’s arrogant of me to assume it’s Paradise. I swerved to save the damn deer, didn’t I? PETA should be scheduling a wake for me.
But what I’m really hoping is that I’m not attached to that body down there, the one the paramedics are trying so hard on (okay, I feel bad about that, it’s a lost cause, guys, I can tell that from up here, but I appreciate the effort, really), that I’m not going to have to follow it to the morgue and the autopsy (bleah) and then hang around the cemetery for the rest of eternity, watching people forget to put flowers on my grave. I should have told Richard to cremate me. At least my ashes might have gone interesting places. I wonder if that’s why people bury the dead, so they’ll stay in one place and not go roaming around. Put a nice big rock on top of them to seal the deal.

Which would not be Richard’s way at all, so maybe he’ll cremate me on his own, scatter my ashes somewhere nice. Of course, his idea of someplace nice and my idea are not going to be the same. I’m going to end up in at urn on the trophy shelf down at the pool hall or sitting by the TV where I can watch ESPN all day and night. Except Richard’s more thoughtful than that. He’ll put Buffy on for me every Tuesday. And he likes HGTV, especially the building shows so he can yell, “No, no,” at the screen when they’re not doing it right. I love watching HGTV with Richard.

Well, I loved watching it, anyway.

What the hell is taking them so long? I’m dead, guys. Oh, they know that now. Sorry, didn’t mean to take it on you. Must be hell, trying to save people too damn dumb to stay on the road. When my work day goes badly, somebody goes home with a bad report card. When their day goes badly, somebody goes to the morgue in a bag. Really sorry, guys. Thanks for the effort. Really.

God, death sucks.


Here’s something interesting: I love the way food smells. I’m not hungry for it, exactly, but I really enjoyed that dinner. And what I’m wondering is, if I enjoyed that dinner, or if the smell of that dinner reminded me of meals I really did eat, that the smell releases the memory. In which case, all those people who stayed on macrobiotic diets are in hell. I’m telling you now, people, eat well and savor the food. Build up those memory banks. You don’t want to die with nothing but microwaved pizza and sensible salads in your eternal pantry. The next time somebody offers you a fabulous dessert and you start counting calories, remember this:

You’re eating for the afterlife.

Huh. The things you find when you clean.