There’s No Such a Thing as a Bad Dog

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Social media has been mad with the story of Bela, a 9 year old German Shepherd whose owner died and who left in her will that he be euthanized, his ashes mixed with hers and they be buried together. People seem to miss the fact that Bela is, by many accounts, including the word of the person who was designated to care for him after his owner’s death, aggressive, possibly dangerous.

In my county any dog who has bitten a person unprovoked (meaning when not being beaten or not defending their home) or bitten another animal is considered “potentially dangerous”. Let’s talk for a second about what that means. Biting is a form of communication for animals, the same as kicking, growling, scratching and stomping. Plain and simple animals don’t rationalize and communicate like we do. They hear, see, smell things we don’t. Their brains work differently, process or become overwhelmed by things differently. Much like a person on the autism spectrum who can be overcome by external stimuli and act out (the infamous “meltdowns”) or someone with anxiety disorder or schizophrenia having a panic attack, only the way their brains works makes them less likely to be able to “rationalize” their way out of it. Not that you can anyway.

When your brain is literally working against you, telling you this or that is a danger or throwing you into a fight or flight situation it can be impossible to fight even when you know you have a condition and know what your triggers are.  Now add in that your life is entirely at someone else’s whim, someone that might be nice, or mean, or likely you translate it as both at times (you know, because people deny dogs the food they want and a dog might not understand that’s because it’s chocolate or loaded with onions and might kill them), you’re territorial and immediately uncomfortable to outright paranoid when not in your territory or when new people come around (and now it’s both!).

German Shepherds are wonderful dogs. I adore them. They are not easy to own dogs. People are afraid of them because of their size, their recognizably and their reputation as a guard breed. They are absolutely not for just anyone to own. They require training.

I worked with one at Petsmart who was a gorgeous boy, never gave me a lick of trouble for anything, didn’t even try to pull me around the salon. He jumped on the grooming table on his own and held up his feet for me. (Some dogs wouldn’t dream of biting, but they will resist nail trims by leaning all their weight on the foot you are trying to hold or trying to yank or hide the foot from you with their bodies. This was funny the first time it happened to me. When a 120 pound lab comes in and I had to hold him standing and fight for his foot and do the trim it gets painful quick. I really appreciate a dog that’ll hold it’s feet up.) But GSDs were one of the most feared breeds in the salon for a reason. That same beautiful wonderful dog that was a pleasure to handle, when in a kennel would snarl and charge the door, flick foam and generally terrorize any dog or any person other than me that walked past him. There were many times that I thought the kennel door would pop open and he’d attack someone. He certainly tried to convince us of that. But when I did open the door it was right back to waiting to be told to come out and staying in a heel and being perfectly behaved.

At my current job we have a GSD who not long ago killed the owner’s cat. He’s bitten multiple other dogs and is something of a terrorist in his neighborhood. He’s pretty easy to give a bath and nail clip to though. I would not want to own him if his owner died and bequeathed him to me. I would not trust him around my other animals or my neighbor’s animals.

Which bring me to a more painful topic. If you’re a regular blog reader you know that at the beginning of the year someone dumped a sickly, intact, heartworm positive pit bull mix in our back yard. If you aren’t my Facebook friend you might not know how this story ends.

We contacted a number of rescues and only one returned our calls, but couldn’t take him. We spend hundreds of dollars treating him for heartworms, then one night he bit my partner Jason. And not a warning bite or a “I was going for the toy and missed” bite. He bit him hard, broke the skin and tried again. We contacted everyone we could think of for help. The message was clear, no one wanted him, and no one wanted to help us try to train him either without at least $60 an hour (that was the most reasonable price and that was a nonprofit humane society).

We adjusted meds, we worked on training with the backing of a wonderful vet team, we neutered him as soon as it was medically safe (and even then we pushed things). He got decent at walking on a leash. He got to where I could hand feed him or pet him while he ate. He still snapped at Jason, and then he started growling at the kids when it was time for a potty break and he didn’t want to go out.

Then one night he cornered our cat of eight years and attacked him, breaking his spine and killing him. The kids witnessed it, in fact the kids had tried to intervene and if I hadn’t insisted that he be wearing a leash while inside so that he could be handled without being touched my daughter would have been bitten too. And he never bit lightly.

The truth was sometimes he was a sweet dog, leaning on you, wanting pets, always happy to see you, wanting to make people happy by sitting and offering a paw. He was amazing for some fairly invasive medical treatment as well. And sometimes when he didn’t want to do what you said, or thought you were close he tried to take chunks out of you. He never trusted us and we stopped trusting him around the time of the first bite.

We talked about building a kennel in the yard and only myself or Jason handling him. He was only allowed in the house with a leash for goddsakes, so that none of us got bitten because he had tried! What kind of life was that? What kind of life would any of us be living, with a dog who was more than willing to hurt us?

We made a last attempt at rehoming him. Gods we made multiple attempts at rehoming him because we were so out of our ability level. But here’s the thing NO ONE WANTED HIM. No one was willing to put time money and effort–RISK–into him when there were hundreds of cute, lovable, not-biting dogs that needed to be saved.

So we made the terrible decision to humanely euthanize him because while he wasn’t a bad dog, he wasn’t a safe one either.

I have cried so much over that damn dog. We all have. We’ve held each other and consoled each other. We did everything right. But you cannot save them all.

Aggression is that deal breaker. It’s the complication that cannot be ignored. Sometimes dogs have situational aggression like cage aggression or they bite when you mess with their feet. You can work around that. You can take steps to modify their behavior and improve the situation and lessen the risk. But aggression doesn’t just risk your skin, it’s can be dangerous to each and every person your dog can or might come into contact with. Your vet, their techs, the mailman, your niece, yours kids, anything smaller than it…And it can end up with other beloved pets (yours or someone else’s) grievously injured or dead. It can end up with huge medical bills, vet bills, lawsuits and insurance issues.

It is not as easy as “Well if you don’t want the dog I do”. And believe me no one wishes it was that simple more than the owners and rescue professionals who have to make these decisions.

The Other Michele Lees

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When I started out I jokingly called myself The Other Michele Lee, and even ended up making that my “writer” name for certain networking sites, my email and other odds and ends. I’m not That Michele Lee, after all. I’m the author Michele Lee.

I’m not this Michele Lee either, though her art is amazing and I adore it.

Turns out that I’m not THIS Michele Lee either. But it might explain why Gutters (a comic culture commentary site) thinks I’m this Michele Lee:

2011-10-02

Maybe someday, though, I’ll be the Michele Lee who started the Legion of Michele Lees, because damn are we a talented bunch.

On Con Harrassment

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I have a question I want to throw out there. Would it help at all to allow con attendees, members, on lookers, committee members or vendors to report harassment anonymously? I’m not a computer/net genius but I wonder how it could be done (a website form, perhaps?”

I will tell you this much, if you have experienced harassment at a con feel free to email me at theothermicheleleeATgmailDOTcom and I will do my best to see that the committee of the con it happened at hears your report, anonymously if that’s what you need. I can’t guarantee they’ll do anything, but if you want to report and are afraid of putting it out there publicly in your own name I volunteer to be your Nom de Plume.

Happy Thanksgiving

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I think by now we all know that the holiday was founded on some pretty heinous actions and followed by worse. It’s important to know that and not forget it. I’m really proud that Mini is learning all about Christopher Columbus and the New World explores, including the taking of slaves, spreading of disease, and mentioning a few names who didn’t do that.

But I also think there is nothing wrong with the modern tradition of acknowledging how lucky we are in life and thanking those who love and support us. I think it’s very important to show love and support to others. We never really know when they need it.

Lately things have been rough for me and I am immensely thankful for all the small comments, the invitations, the offers, the sales, the words of hope and everything else I’ve been receiving.

So thank you all, for all your support. And, I love you too.

Two Stories

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Today I have two stories I want to share.

Four or so years ago I was involved in a neighborhood action group that was organizing a local festival, the proceeds of which went to neighborhood projects like our local police division giving presents to neighborhood kids on the holidays, to repairing homes in the neighborhood for the elderly and disabled and helping clean up and “beautify” the otherwise ignored area.

I was on my way home from a meeting, slowing down to make my turn on a street right after a boys & girl’s club. There were some teenage kids on the sidewalk, about 5-6 boys and a girl. They were joking around with each other and one of them playfully pushed the girl. It wasn’t very hard, no one was angry or fighting or anything like that. But she was on the edge of the curb, she lost her balance and she fell into the road.

I was already slowing down to make my turn, and I hit my brakes as soon as I saw her teetering on the curb. And I hit her.

I threw my car into park, threw on my blinkers and jumped out. She was laying on the street under my front fender, clutching my passenger side tire. The car hadn’t gone on top of her at all, but she wasn’t moving. And my cell phone had no bars and refused to dial out.

The boys on the side of street told me, multiple times to just drive away. They helped her up. They took out phones. No one would let me call the cops. Again and again I was told that she was okay, she was walking away and I should just leave now. They began pushing closer, began coming around the car, telling me again and again to leave. I was outnumbered by people younger than me. People who were beginning to try to intimidate me.

Then three adults ran out of the club and wanted to know what was happening. I stammered that she had lost her balance and fallen in the road and no one would let me call the cops. I was shaking so hard. I was fucking terrified. I stammered out that my phone wouldn’t work and I wanted to call the cops.

A woman (who turned out to be the girl I hit’s mom) gave me her cell phone. She told me that someone had already called the cops and to call whoever I needed to. I called Jason, who was less than three blocks away at our house. And I tried to tell him what was happening while crying and shaking so hard I’m surprised I didn’t either hang up on him or drop the phone.

The girl’s mom came over to me and told me that her daughter was okay and asked if I was okay. Of course I wasn’t. Again I babbled more about how everyone was telling me to leave but I couldn’t. The boys who had been encouraging, then demanding that I drive off were off to the side on the sidewalk, being wrangled by adults, but giving me the more terrible glares. And occasionally saying something to each other while waving emphatically at me.

The police and firefighters and paramedics arrived. The latter and the mom helped the girl to the ambulance to be checked over. The fighter fighters left fairly quickly (they are first responders so they always come in a situation like that, but the police got there pretty quick too and there was no damage to my car or anything that needed to be managed.) The police took statements from myself, the witnesses, etc.

I told the exact same story I’m telling you now. The police were very nice. They said that if it had been anyone else driving there at that time (and there had been cars behind me and coming from the other direction) that the girl would have been very hurt. They said it was clear that I had been going real slow and hadn’t hit her hard. The officer talking to me told me I probably saved her life by braking as soon as I did.

But because we were close by I heard the boys who had witnessed the accident say that I was speeding, that I swerved to hit her, and that I screamed at them after I came out of the car. And that I had tried to drive off.

I am fucking lucky. The police believed me. The officer who took my statement told me that if they pressed charges it almost definitely would not come to anything. The girl didn’t have more than a bruise on her hip. Her mother declined a ride to the hospital to be checked out and medical care. She grabbed my arm and told me it was okay and that I could calm down now.

They never pressed charges, she wasn’t hurt. But I’m still shaking as I type this. Part of it is remembering that fear. Part of it is being angry at those kids who tried everything in their power to force me to run, to get me arrested, and to generally make a pretty shitty situation much worse.

So I know what it’s like to be in a situation where the witnesses lie.

Story two.

Even more years ago I lived in the  ”better” section of town. Jason and I had our first (terribly expensive) apartment. I had had to quit my job due to medical concerns and was about 5 months pregnant with Mister. We were stressed, living off WIC and dealing with a lot of emotional crap, on top of it expecting our first. So we decided to indulge in a dinner at Denny’s, which was just under a mile away.

We didn’t have a car, it was February and late (ten-ish) so we walked slowly there (I might have waddled a little bit). We had a decent meal and walked back home. The walk involved about a quarter of a mile through a commercial area with a hospital on one side of the street and shops on the other. Then a road that connected to an overpass about 400 yards from where we crossed it, so it was a big hill we had to cross. Then it was a fairly straight shot to our apartment.

We decided to try to shorten our walk a little by cutting through the hospital parking lot, going up the incline and crossing the guardrail at the top. It was not easy when you are undernourished, pregnant, with a full belly and the baby decides to start kicking. But Jason helped me and we laughed at ourselves a lot and went real slow.

We were halfway past the overpass, almost home, when three cop cars pulled up on us, lights blaring. The cops jumped out of their cars, no guns, thank the gods, and demanded that we stop right there and tell us what we were doing. I was carrying a take out box with a clear lid. (I remember I had something with onion rings.) We had been walking real slow because the pressure in my stomach was making me feel sick. I was wearing Jason’ heavy jacket (he was wearing a fleece jacket that was a lot less warm) which wouldn’t zip around my belly.

They verbally harassed us, questioned us for over 45 minutes, refusing to let me sit on the curb, again, in the February cold. They “ran our IDs”, asked us several times why we went through the parking lot and heavily suggested we were vandalizing cars. The most vocal of the trio kept his hands on his hips and fingered the strap securing his gun when he accused us of this (multiple times).

They eventually gave us back our IDs and left, after again confirming we hadn’t been messing with any cars (we hadn’t even passed any cars in the back part of that parking lot. It had been empty which was why we cut through it.) I had to sit down for about twenty minutes before I could finish walking home. And when I got home, I got sick.

No one reported us for damaging cars. We were “pulled over” while walking by three male cops in cars, accused, vaguely threatened and harassed for forty-five minutes for walking in the rich section of town at midnight. For being too poor to have a car, and hungry.

I know what it feels like to be harassed and be made to feel incredibly vulnerable by asshole cops.

And here’s the thing, no one shot me.

I don’t know what happened in Ferguson. Truthfully I’ve been trying to avoid it because…I know what it’s like to be on the side of someone fearing for their lives and for the safety of the public. Jason worked in security for 12 years and in that time he was threatened, assaulted and had to deal with some really terrifying stuff, like people with HIV and Hep B pulling out their IVs and trying to spit and bleed on him. Trying to end his life because they were angry and sick and hurting.

And I’ve seen the complete cover up that happened when one of his coworkers (a security guard in a position of authority) got mad at a visitor who wouldn’t respond to his intimidation techniques so he, a man who out sized her by a good deal, grabbed her by the hair and dragged her out of the hospital room where she was visiting. And the bosses covered it up.

I don’t know where the line between feeling threatened by someone and the right to shoot them is. I hope to all the gods that I NEVER have to face the decision. But I’m also very suspicious that a trained officer, certainly trained in nonviolent intervention and crisis response could not think of a better solution. I’m suspicious about the administration who trained their police in this way, the history of racial violence, and the complete and total lack of any apology.

I think the phrase “deserved what he got” is a terrible thing and a way people try to convince themselves that they share no fault in something. It’s used often against victims of abuse when they come out and seek help. Many times their friends and family look for some way to blame the victim because they want to believe that it cannot happen to them. It’s fucking shitty. There are some people I feel deserve to die (Pol Pot, Hitler, Christopher Columbus, Mengel) but MOST people do not.

But I also believe people have the right to defend their own lives. (I’m not convinced the cop’s life was in danger here.)

And the media handling of all of this is absolutely fucking disgusting, and a prime example of why I stopped watching news and reading the paper and cancelled my cable.

I think we need more accountability. I think that lives matter and shouldn’t be taken lightly. We shouldn’t take our own lightly and using deadly force should never, ever be an easy thing. A long time ago when Mini first started watching Bones she asked how Booth could kill people and still be a good guy. I told her that it was clearly something he struggled with, that he didn’t always think he was a good guy. That even when he ended up killing a bad guy he always tried not to at first. And that he always felt bad about it, hurt, after.

Nothing makes me feel that the police of Ferguson regret what happened. Nothing makes me think they want to try to make the world a better place. While neither side here is wholly trustworthy one side has voluntarily taken on the job of protector of the people. One side has agreed to be the first one to step into situations like this and try to de-esculate. One side, maybe unfairly, but universally has committed to do their best to take the higher path. To uphold laws regardless of personal or political opinions.

And they have seriously failed.

That’s what he said

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Not surprising, but Chuck Wendig is saying smart things again. Funny, I’ve been thinking about how to make a similar post of my own.

I struggle with the idea and the reality of -isms. I was raised by a single mom abandoned by her husband trying to support three kids. I’ve been raised by a middle class white man who thought throwing money around equaled good parenting. I’ve lived in a one bedroom house with holes in the floors with a $275 a month rent that we sometimes couldn’t afford. I’ve been given a job because I’m a woman, then put in a uniform way too small so my boss could oggle my breasts. I was told in high school I was one of the best and brightest, destined to Do Things, and Be A Person, while at home I was told I was a disgusting fat pimply cow who was single-handedly responsible of all the bad in my family’s life.

The first person I came out to responded with “Not you too!” then proceeded to tell me how so many girls were coming out to them they were tired of it because it cheapened them being “out of the closet”. I’ve been called greedy and a breeder when trying to walk at Pride with allies, been ridiculed by fellow pagans for not being as pagan as them, or not being anti-GMO/all organic/anti technology/etc as them.

The adults who raised me had preconceived notions about…everything. Largely it was religious, but it led to me living a lily-white life very very aware that other races were Other People. If they were good Christians they could be good people, but they were still not-like-us. That reinforced certain views on the world, whether the adults realized it or not. Then in the middle class/best and brightest world it was noticeable who was not included. There weren’t a lot of brown people in AP classes. There weren’t a lot in my middle class school period.

I went through a teen age phase were I was really into myths and legends and I exoticized everything. My characters (because I was writing then) were Egyptian and Asian and South American, or just white enough to kinda look like me, but exotic and beautiful and have a connection to cultures that seemed, well just to have so much more meaning than my own. (And I think that’s a natural stage because why in the hell would I have wanted to be more connected to my culture?)

Eventually that faded.

I dropped out of college, moved into the real world. Moved straight into the real world, as in I moved out of the middle class world and rather abruptly  into a lower income neighborhood. I left “You are the best and brightest” and jumped into waiting in line at the food stamp office.

I dealt with a massive amount of shame that I failed what ended up being “white middle class” expectations of me. Then I started working in functioning instead of stewing and realized exactly how colorful the world is. And how true stereotypes can be when you have minute long interactions as the sole way to group people. Mostly I learned about the ones about “white trash” and “poor people”.

I encountered a lot of blatant racism for the first time. (Not to say that exclusion isn’t racism, just to day it’s not blatant.) Lots of “Oh this neighborhood is going down hill as it gets darker” mixed in with some outbreaks of shootings that mainly involved black victims, a little “angry mean black person” at stores and doctors and social aid offices and discussions about our city representative, a black woman who spends a lot of time working in that other section of town and getting improvements there, but seems to not realize the “whiter” section of town exists. Then there’s the time we were denied for food stamps for being white, the time a mob of 50 black kids were outside my house encouraging each other to fight, a stint in retail, a stint in retail in the rich section of town, self education, multiple conversations with Maurice Broaddus, gay friends, black friends, allies in child care, cohorts in dayjobbery, million small prejudices where I found myself on both sides of the fence…

What do I think? Everyone has prejudices. I jump to conclusions because of my experiences. I fear certain people more than others because of my past. I get stuck in absolutes and generalizations. I forget that not all men are the ones I grew up with. I forget that not all Christians are the ones I grew up with. I forget that not all black female social workers are the one that screamed at us that we should be ashamed for even asking for help.

There’s some good too. I forget that every black cop isn’t the one who came to my aid when I hydroplaned into a ditch a few years ago. I forget every redneck isn’t the one who gave me $100 to get my car pulled out. I forget that every gay man isn’t my friend Jimmy.

I think our brains are designed to jump to conclusions. It used to be how we survived, to try to quickly determine what was threat and what was important. What was worth fighting for, and what was unimportant. I think our brains alone push us toward -isms. I think we’re all struggling to relate to each other when we have entertainment, advertising and media who try to divide us into cliches so they can understand how to use us.

We have people who make money by triggering us, outraging us, scaring us. There are who industries who profit by composing a fear then selling us a protective cure. There are people who profit by convincing us we’re better than other people for X reason.

Our whole damn system is designed to create and foster prejudice and it’s impossible to escape.

I try. I try very hard to not let those sub thoughts turn into actions. I check and double check my fiction and my reading for fairness. I try to continue educating myself on issues, continuing to be aware of history and call bullshit bullshit.

I don’t know that I can accomplish anything, because I feel alone. I don’t know how I can not be immediately suspicious of any man larger than me.  I don’t how I can be an ally for a black woman. I get resentful when someone tells me I have no right to an opinion on a topic because I don’t know how it is.

I want to do what’s right all the time. And yes, I want a damn cookie when I do good.

That’s not how the world works though.

Sometimes I can keep fighting this fight to be better. But I’m not a blank slate. I’m preloaded with racism, sexist, cisism, ablism, all of it. Sometimes I’m tired and I hate feeling ashamed and guilty. I hate being excluded from conversations when I’m just trying to help, I hate that my good deeds come without cookies. And sometimes it’s hard to not fight back against that with the same fervor that I try to fight for fairness.

Why am I even rambling? Because its important. It’s been important to me lately. It’s important that we keep trying and admit our failures, our weaknesses. And I need to remember to keep trying. Not to shut down and give up.

 

Last Brother snippet

There was much debate in medical, and most religious communities, on whether the zombie came back body and soul or not. Not that he could prove it, because you couldn’t prove a soul existed in the first place, but Murphy knew the truth, that both people before him were whole and real, awake in the slow rotting of their former flesh.

Zombies, while not alive, were ensouled, which was the true horror of their situation.

“Now that I’ve got your attention,” Murphy said softly, his voice taking on the deep, even tone he used in rituals as well. “Who do I have the honor of talking with?”

The man’s mouth opened, but only a piercing shriek came from within. Murphy flinched. The cops cursed and threw their hands over their ears.

“Now, now,” Murphy said as one hand pulled a burnt-colored metal flask from his pocket. “I have rum, mange sec, for anyone who wants to play nice.”

The woman stood, trying to watch Murphy and her companion at once. The man teetered, then took a few halting steps toward the bars. He fell onto the flask that Murphy held out, a crashing man desperate for a hit. Murphy let some of the liquid slip from the flask. A thick, dry tongue darted from the man’s mouth and licked at the stream trickling from Murphy’s hand. When Murphy pulled back, the zombie fell to the floor and lapped up what he could.

Then he stood again, licking his fingers until some of the flesh came free. Murphy refused to look away, mostly because there was look of defiance in the zombie’s eyes. It wasn’t just his own soul in residence, and one never looked away from a lwa ge-rouge when they had their attention.

“Who are you?” Murphy asked again.

The voice gurgled and spilled forth, still painfully shrill, but bringing real words with it this time. “I am your death, bastard flesh bag.”

With his left hand Murphy flung a small handful of grave dirt from his other pocket onto the body. It wouldn’t sever the bond between the body and spirits, but it served to remind them that they were a guest in a corpse and easily sent back from where they’d come. The zombie stumbled and responded with just a glare.

“Again, I ask for your name,” Murphy demanded, lower and more commanding with a touch of his own power behind the words.

“I am Ghede La Croix, Baron of Death.”

“You lie,” Murphy snapped. His audience forgotten, he gathered his power around him, allowing it to flare and snap at the spirit who meant to imply he was Baron Samedi himself. Murphy had, upon occasion, dealt directly with The Baron, and knew this imposter to be a very poor imitation.

The zombie let out a shaky shriek and fell to the floor. Idly, Murphy wondered how a zombie groveling before him would look to those who would later watch the tape. It babbled in a language long lost to human ears even before the African diaspora began.

“Why do you claim to be what you are not?”

“We are scared,” the zombie squealed. “We are lost. Fre denye, we are abandoned.”

A chill wormed its way through Murphy. His fists clenched automatically. With a deep breath he forced himself not to betray how disturbed the lwa’s words left him. This was most definitely not a matter to be recorded by the human police.

“Be blessed, my brother,” Murphy said. He raised his right arm, where a bracelet of black, navy and red threads interwoven around raven bones waited for his touch of power. To the Ghede, he knew, he appeared fearsome, indeed, with his birth power sparking darkly across his skin and flaring behind him, reminiscent of the wings of the psychopomp he bore. “Take him home,” he whispered to the psychopomp.

The carriers of the dead took many forms. Black dogs, jackals, vultures, owls and even cats all traditionally could stand in as a pictorial representations of the spirits who saw the dead safely to Guinee. Murphy preferred ravens, simply because they were more common, and their fetters were easier to conceal in a normal appearance.

The psychopomp burst from the talisman. In truth it looked little like the bird. Perhaps if a particularly enthusiastic three-year-old (and a morbid one to boot) colored a version of a raven he might get it closer. The cops, thankfully, could see nothing. To them the corpse just felt empty after putting up a creepy fight.

Murphy looked to the woman. The whites of her eyes showed. If she had the fluid, she would have been crying.

“Peace child,” Murphy bade. While he could lay more than one zombie at a time, he’d only brought the one psychopomp, so the girl would have to wait until it returned to depart herself. “Do you have a name?”

She gagged over an attempt to speak. It was then that Murphy noticed the deep rent in her neck where she’d been chained. She was in considerably worse shape. At last she opened her mouth wide and gestured within. Obviously she looked wrong, but the motion confirmed that through rot or cruelty her tongue had been removed.

“Can you write?”

Too vigorously she nodded. Things that shouldn’t have flopped and flapped against her visage.

“Paper, pencil,” Murphy asked of the cops, standing in a stunned silence behind him. The one Murphy didn’t know faltered, then produced a legal pad and pen from the desk. Murphy passed it on.

“Mira Grint,” he read aloud for the camera. “And the man?”

Again she wrote and held the pad up.

“Brian Kean,” Murphy read again.

“Do you know who did this to you?”

She shook her head again.

“Woke up in a graveyard. Tall man, dirty blonde, white skin. Snake tattoo. Second man, white, tall, not as tall as you, shaved head, took me to garage & chained me there. I couldn’t say no. Couldn’t fight back.”

The last words were underlined.

Broard cleared his throat. “It’s okay, sweetie. We know.”

Murphy and Broard both knew that sometimes the dead didn’t know they’d ever died. At her level of decay, though, she had to know.

“Do you know their names?” Broard asked.

The zombie, Mira, clearly shook her head.

“Any details you can give us would help a lot. Is there anything else you remember?”

If Broard was uncomfortable interviewing a dead woman about crimes committed against her he didn’t let it show.

“Dogs,” she wrote, pointing emphatically with the pencil to the word. “They fought dogs. Took me there once. Threatened with giving me to the dogs.”

“That probably means the one who held her wasn’t a keeper,” Broard said, looking to Murphy for confirmation.

The woman nodded. “Voice held no compulsion.”

“Anything else, sweetie? Names? Addresses?”

Not that any of them would help, Murphy knew. People like that were ghosts, moving at the first sign of a police presence.

After a moment the woman wrote four words on their own page.

“Don’t want to die,” Broard read.

It was a point where both men would usually swear under their breath. But with the woman standing there, waiting for their reaction under a fringe of her own hair it felt wrong.

“Unlock the door,” Murphy said. Broard did as he asked without a word.

Murphy stepped inside, skirting the still body of the man. He sat on the bench and motioned for the woman to join him. Reluctantly she did.

“Doesn’t she know she’s already dead,” the uniform asked, barely bothering to whisper. Broard glared at him hard enough that the uniform took a step back.

“Lay down,” Murphy said to the zombie. She couldn’t have fought anyway, but she looked resolved to not even try. She stretched out on the bench, laying her head in Murphy’s lap. There was no good way to go about this, with her skin peeling from dryness in spots and soft with rot in others. Dark runners of blood ran through the white of her eyes and she looked up at him. “If you remember nothing else, remember that it will be all right. You are not passing into darkness, but are at last traveling home.”

Because it seemed proper, Murphy began singing softly. He didn’t have the range of a true talent, but his voice, deep and rumbling, was serviceable enough for a hymn. “You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst. You shall wander far in safety, though you do not know the way…”

Broard watched Murphy, transfixed, surprise in his eyes. The uniform gaped and crossed himself.

As Murphy sang he silently called the pyschopomp, a lesser spirit devotee to Papa Legba, the lwa who guarded gateways and made passage possible between the earthly realm the Guinee. Murphy used his long, dark fingers to stroke Mira’s face until she calmed in his arms. When she closed her eyes under his touch Murphy released the raven. Mira stiffened only

slightly, then she was gone, body left empty while Murphy’s voice belted out the last lines of the hymn.

The room stayed still for a few long moments, a feat since the cells were far from empty.

“Call for someone to bring in a pair of gurneys and get these two taken over to the university morgue,” Broard commanded. Murphy slipped back out the cell, letting the metal clang against itself as he left. “Let’s go get you some coffee, Murphy. That was a hell of a performance.”

One of the men in the other holding cell whooped and began clapping. His face was red with intoxication and the effort alone of clapping threatened to spill him onto the floor in a drunken heap. Murphy’s face heated as he tried to turn away.

Broard clapped a hand on Murphy’s back and urged him toward the back door. They escaped up a back stair to Broard’s office on the significantly less pretty second floor. As they walked Murphy tried to hide the shaking he felt in his bones.

Another snippet

Again from “Some of the time/Often/Always”:

“I spend a lot of time encouraging people to explore why they do the things they do. Some never can admit the baggage they carry with them. You are miles ahead.”

Baggage, she says, like I’m a harried, excited tourist rushing to a grand destination. This isn’t sparkly leopard print flight totes on little wheels. This is chains whose ends I can’t see, whose thickness swells and bleeds out constricting around an through me until at times I can barely walk, barely breathe.

I need help.

“We are going to help you,” Dr. Parrish says, almost as soon as I think it.

That we is a fearful thing. Cliched, my skeptical brain wants to dismiss it and therefore every other thing that comes from Dr. Parrish’s mouth. But my heart wants to absorb it, wants to believe. I can be a we again. Wants to believe this small, solid box of a woman, behind her PhDs and cloak of professionalism really does understand.

So I box my heart up in steel, just in case but leave air holes and no lock on the door. That’s a thing called Hope.