That darn comma

Lily out there drankin’ the rainwater. Can you see her? She’s behind the turquoise Adirondack chair, which for no discernible reason Ned calls a hurricane chair. I bought that chair on impulse at the grocery store back when I went to grocery stores and I do not regret it. I remember tryina cram it in my Mini Cooper.

It rained last night, and I guess you can figure that out, Einstein, due to the flooded yard. It didn’t just rain, it thunderstormed, which led the Eds to get up from his bed, up onto mine, and squeeze his dog self up on top of my head. So he was crammed between the top of my head and the headboard, like he was some sort of nightcap. And not the fun kind with whiskey.

“It’s OK, Edsel,” I said to him. “You stay up there as long as you need to.” And then I put my arms of cancer around him and we fell asleep that way.

Perhaps you’ve stopped on “arms of cancer.”

It’s dumb.

Long ago, when I was married and lived in Los Angeles and did not look like an apple doll, Marvin and I picked up one of those free periodicals they used to make all over yonder back when people printed things on paper and didn’t just consider themselves writers by posting to the internet, she says, posting something she’s written to the internet.

Anyway, back then, I picked up some sort of animal-themed free magazine. I forget what it was called. Let’s call it Sharona. What I do recall is reading a story about a woman who had a dying animal of some sort. Let’s say it was her sloth. Her sloth, Sharona, had the cancer. So I was reading this story aloud to poor Marvin, who went ahead and divorced me later, and I got to this line about the woman and her sloth. “Eventually, Sharona succumbed to the disease and died in her arms of cancer.”

In her arms of cancer.

Who can take a poorly constructed sentence and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile for like a decade? Was it Marvin and me?

“In her arms of cancer,” we both said, waving our arms about.

We milked that joke for years. “I worked out last night and now my arms of cancer are sore.”

The building I lived in when I met Marvin was the Something-or-Other Arms, I can no longer recall. But it had window seats and a real ice box in the kitchen. I loved that apartment. The point is, when Marvin dragged me to LA to live with him, our apartment building was called The Something (Marvin would totally remember). Let’s say it was called The Sharona. So instead we called it The Sharona Arms, in honor of making fun of my old building. And then of course it became The Sharona Arms of Cancer.

How did I get off on this tangent? …Oh. The rain. Right.

So Edsel was splayed on my head, and I could hear his poor heart, and I remembered how I went a year thinking he had congestive heart failure and how awful that was, and got briefly resentful of how much that misdiagnosis COST me, and then I fell asleep. BUT THEN I WOKE UP, because guess who was yipping in his sleep?

yip yip yip {jolt} yip! yip yip yip!

It was Yom Yipper up in here.

Edsel is a barky animal. You could have let Tallulah out in the yard and forgotten all about her, because she just did her Talu things silently unless you were a rabbit. But Eds barks at fekking everything. Crows. A change in wind direction. His tail.

I’m acutely aware of this, and go FLYING to the back door after one bark to make him come in. In fact, now if he barks once he starts heading for the door, because he knows his fun time is over. Once a neighbor mentioned this. “You don’t have to do that,” he said. “He’s a dog. Dogs bark.”

I do it anyway.

I mention this because of COURSE he barked in his sleep. Of course he did. He was probably trying to reach his daily allotment that gets snubbed by old EnDOORa, here.

Anyway, that was relaxing, and when the alarm went off I was most displeased. Most days I wake up one minute before the alarm. But today I was in the middle of sawing logs and kissing Valentino by a crystal-blue Italian stream.

I am sorry that is all I talked about today, but I have a meeting in 16 minutes so I must go. I guess I’m the sort of person who has meetings in the early morning now. Copy editors don’t meet that often. What is there to say? “That darn comma.”

I realize this whole post was a waste of your time and you’re crossing your arms of cancer at me disgustedly. But that’s the crapshoot you get when you read someone’s blog that’s been going on for nearly 15 years.

“Nearly 15 years.” It’ll be 15 years in 9 months. Hey, reality, how’s your grasp?

Not good. Cause I got arms of cancer.

Sensibly,
June

45 thoughts on “That darn comma

  1. Hi June,
    I thoroughly enjoyed your memories of the arms of cancer. I love how people make up their own languages in families. Right now, I can’t think of any in my family–only because I am so tired. I know we have some; I am sure of it. Language is a funny, living thing. My biggest fear is that “all of a sudden” is turning into “all of the sudden.” It seems like all the youngsters say it wrong.

    Lovely post, lovely June! Hope you are doing okay. I just have a sense you need someone standing in your doorway, so I am. Even if it is a needless task.

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  2. Great post. My dog yips in her sleep, too. Though, thankfully, she’s not usually on my head.

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  3. Reading you is never a waste of time.
    If our cats get a chance to venture outside, they often enjoy a sip of chlorinated pool water. Weirdos.
    Mavis, the chocolate English lab, rarely barks, but when she does holy cow is it loud and piercing.

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  4. You say that you didn’t write much but this is a favorite post, as of today. So there.

    Also, my cats used to wrap themselves around my head like earmuffs. Maybe they were cold. They were never afraid. But my head was always warm.

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  5. Arms of cancer. The English language sets some wonderful traps. I found a batch of awful headlines on a Language Log site’s “Crash Blossoms,” which is probably an in-joke like arms of cancer. And since I’m going to hell for finding this funny, I figured I’d take a few of you with me:

    “Mutilated body washes up on Rio beach to be used for Olympic beach volleyball”

    These are less ghastly: “Is fish heart healthy food? It depends”

    “Fossils created by asteroid that annihilated dinosaurs discovered”

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  6. Gotta love Edsel! My Marley does the same things he does – the outside barking at cats and birds and even toilets sitting in the yard! And those outbursts at night. I had no idea a dog could be so loud until he came into my life.
    June, you always make me laugh – such a great way to get in a good mood in the morning!

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  7. Arms of cancer. Am dying here.

    My old Lab used to howl in her sleep. It was cute when she was napping during the day but hearing her howl like a wolf in the middle of the night while she’s sleeping at the foot of our bed? A little jarring, to say the least.

    I love these types of meandering posts. Lovely post, Coot.

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  8. Hi June- I just wanted to thank you for writing and to let you know that your posts are such a breath of fresh air during my day. I love to read whatever you write about- your talent for writing, along with your humor, wit and amazing memory for details can weave a story out of anything, even just a barking dog.

    And I too, run to the door to get my barker in the house when she emits even one woof outside. SHE doesn’t come to the door as soon as she starts barking, but my two other dogs (both boy dogs) both come running to the back door when she starts barking. The girl? She just continues barking in the middle of the yard until I use my “Get in hear right now, you. I really mean it this time” voice at her.

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  9. I love it when your morning missives are like the long and winding road. My ADD brain follows along nicely. Don’t even need directions.

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  10. This post is why I keep coming here to see what you are saying.
    My cat prefers to drink out of a mud puddle rather than the clean, filtered water I provide in two containers one inside and one outside.
    It was a rough night in Georgia, rougher day in Alabama. Lots of damage in Newnan, Georgia in the downtown area with the old, historic homes. We had storms and ended up in our basement for 30 minutes but my cat paced all night long. It would have been great if she had slept on my head.
    Tee

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  11. Years ago, a friend lived in an apartment with a sign in the elevator – I forget exactly what it said but the word elevator was spelled “elavtor” on it. I now pronounce elevator “ee-LAV-tor” even though the friend has moved to another country and I haven’t seen her in almost two decades.

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  12. Are you familiar with the book “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”? It’s very educational, but the author comes off as the original grammar Nazi.
    Hard to imagine anything you write every being a waste of time. You make the most mundane subjects entertaining!

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  13. Lovely post June. Plus, I am very pleased with myself because, being British, I don’t get a lot (most?) of your cultural references – but, I am right with you on kissing Valentino by a crystal blue Italian stream. Love that song.

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  14. Nothing like a bad sentence to stick in your mind and make you laugh years later. I’ve been editing my senior in high school’s essays for scholarships, etc. Good grief. I make him read it aloud so he can HEAR how bad it sounds. Then I swat at him with my arms of cancer.

    I hate missing sleep. I know I wouldn’t sleep well if I had a dog on my head.

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  15. Since Cancer is the crab, I was expecting a reference to crabby arms or marine creatures. Dying in her arms of cancer was better, though. It reminded me of coming up with ridiculous sentences for seventh graders to fix.

    I agree with other commenters that you can take events I’d tell about in two sentences and make them entertaining.

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  16. My cat, who could be Lily’s twin, likes to wrap herself around the top of my head at night. She is a cat hat.

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  17. I originally thought your arms of cancer referred to your astrological sign, but your meaning was much funnier. SadieDog does the muffled barking in her sleep and slept through all the pouring rain last night.

    I hope everyone is okay after the storms and tornadoes. Bama Carol, are you okay?

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  18. I had to google kissing Valentino as it was driving me berserk on where it was from, now I have the ding dang song in my head and it’s not even Monday. Our dog barked at everything too, when the doorbell rang, which was a major trigger, I found if one went off on a tv commercial he would leap from his bed and screech to the door. I would rewind the dvr and replay it over and over so he’d get all worked up and then went huh? wtf? Keep writing with your arms of cancer!

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  19. Waste of time? I’ve wasted my time in ways that were far less entertaining than reading you, Jooooon.

    The image of Edsel riding your head like a weathervane was worth the price of admission.

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  20. I laughed out loud several times at this post. Thank you for entertaining us for 15 plus years. I wish I was your friend IRL so I could be in on your arms of cancer joke. Also, too, I thought of you this morning as I was reading a weekly email from Penguin Random House with book suggestions and one of the suggestions was a book titled “It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences” and the author is June Casagrande! Maybe worth a read!

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  21. Well, the one good thing is that he didn’t start chasing a squirrel in his sleep. He might have kicked you in the head and that would have made for a more unpleasant wake up.
    It cracks me up to see animals running and barking in their sleep. They’re so cute!

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  22. Sentences like that make me physically wince. And then similarly beat it to death as a joke that maybe one other person will get.

    Finn slept (sprawled) in our room last night because of the storms, and although he did not yip, he kept kicking his back feets against the dresser and that woke me up. Then his hot breath of doom woke me up as he stared at me sleeping and tried to will me into making the storms stop. Poor Finn.

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  23. I work for an architect who was an editor at a major magazine in NYC (he likes to tell us often). And yes, we have meetings over commas.

    I shudder to think what he would’ve had meetings about, when an architect. (That darn I-beam?)

    I’m glad you and your town are okay this AM – the weather reports were freaky, even from afar!

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    1. You always manage to make the smallest things so entertaining and enjoyable to read about! Arms of cancer!!
      Poor Eds, I hope he’ll get a break from the storms today.

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    1. Oh, the batwings. Nothing, but nothing, will stop the march of time and the advancement of the batwings. I guess if I gained a hundred pounds they’d fill out but I’s rather just wear elbow-length sleeves. Also? Why are all the dresses sleeveless?

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      1. Because of the damn hot flashes. I’ve been having them for 6 years. Have a nice selection of sleeveless clothes now.
        This is the only blog I read anymore. There’s no one s else as good.

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