Winter morning in Alabama…Episodes, Ellis Island, and the Bug Man


106 Pages, 24561 words – who knew?

* * *

Last night I slept with child and dog nestled close under heavy blankets. I turned the heat down and woke up freezing and pulled the hot-water-bottle-of-a-wiener-dog close for warmth and slept some more. I woke to a backyard full of robins and scattered leaves of wintertime in Alabama.

We’d fallen asleep to “Episodes,” a show that’s been on the air since 2011 but I missed it entirely. (Thank you, Mike Tait, for sending it.) I have never paid any attention to Matt LeBlanc – I didn’t watch “Friends” like I didn’t watch “Lost” or “Walking Dead” or “Game of Thrones” or “Big Bang Theory” whatever – there’s just too much to watch, and I can’t commit – blah blah blah.


But I love “Episodes.” It’s British meets LA/Hollywood in the most squirmy, awful, and painful way that is hilarious – and even more delightful – it’s Fran from “Black Books” too. (Tamsin Greig)


Black Books:

“Episodes” reminds me a story that my sister used to tell me about one of her “Northern California” friends (and I don’t even know what that means because I know people from Northern and Southern California have a sense of humor). But whenever Keely would tell this friend a story – a funny story about anything – instead of laughing the friend would pause and say, “Hmmm. Funny.” And not even crack a smile – just sort of a musing expression over a cup of coffee.

And it drove Keely crazy but it made me laugh to hear her tell it because Keely is a hilarious storyteller, and yes, I’m biased but it’s true.

“Hmm. Funny.”

That is what “Episodes” is like.

* * *

Now I’m back working on ARE YOU THERE VULCAN? IT’S ME MILLIE-GRACIELLA, and I want to figure out how to fit this Bug Man character into the story. I wrote this monologue a few years ago when I lived in a horrible bug-infested apartment, and I adored the Bug Man, who was like a kind of savior from the infestation. He arrived once a month wearing large canisters of bug spray like a backpack of giant silly string, and he would spray the baseboards with abandon and talk nonstop. I now live in a place that is about as bug-free as you can get, but this apartment of 2011 was awful – I called them “Cadillacs” those cockroaches with wings – and yet now it’s proving great fodder. So here is how the bug man sounded, and I hope to weave him into VULCAN though how I don’t know yet.


Hey knock knock. Bug man, Bug man, here. Good morning to you! I’m doing fine.

Not bad at all for a bug-killing day.

I saw your husband was here. I thought y’all got yourselves a deee-vorce, and then I saw he was here, and I thought to myself, well now that is sweet. So many folks get deee-vorced these days, you know?


Now you know I can’t kill them big bugs that you don’t like. I can’t do nothing about the big ones. They don’t want to be in here anymore than you want them in here, but I can’t do nothing about them until the landlord says I can start spraying outside too. Now I can get the little ones, but don’t you start spraying inside too.

Okay? This is powerful stuff. And I know ladies take offense so please don’t take offense when I tell your own baseboards could be cleaner. Brown recluse spiders like the one that run over your daughter’s bed in the night like you said – well, the brown recluse spiders like dry, dusty baseboards, and your own could be cleaner but please don’t be offended by that remark.

Just keep it in mind. 

I’m teaching my older daughter the business. She needs a job. She’s got a worthless husband. Me and my wife got three daughters. We been married twenty-four-years. I’m the kind of man who can’t live alone. If my wife up and died or left my butt I’d have to get me another woman in a few months. That’s how I am. But we celebrated twenty-four-years. That’s good I think.

My youngest daughter – she is so shy – she’s pretty but she don’t see it and kids can be mean, bragging on their new jeans or fancy cell phones. Mean kids at her school.

You know what is sad to me? Saddest thing of all? An ugly girl. Now take a guy? He can be ugly, look at me. But a girl? It’s just sad. But my youngest girl is pretty – she’s not ugly – but she don’t see it. There is nothing sadder than an ugly girl.

Now listen, you remember what I told you about spraying in here. Don’t do it.

Did I tell you I started making quilt and jean purses and guitar straps at my church? I’m real good. I taught some of the ladies in the sewing circle. They asked me to come back. I’m the only guy. I’m gonna have me a whole other side business other than just bug-killing.

Okay, see you later. Bye.”

* * *

Here are some pictures of what is inspiring the novel.

crepe mytrle.JPG

The crape myrtle tree in that apartment complex gave me comfort in the blistering August heat when it bloomed.


ellis island.jpg

Norah’s amazing teacher made them choose Ellis Island characters and those who did not take it seriously were made to run laps or do jumping jacks or risk deportation. The whole gym was set up like Ellis Island and the teachers were the immigration officials deciding who should be admitted or not. Norah was Slovicha Slovikia from Poland, and she worked in a sausage factory and had nine brothers.


August rain.jpg

A rainy August day 2010. Summer rain sometimes, instead of cooling everything off, makes it ten times hotter, steam rising off the pavement.

* * *

And just for fun…

light switch art.JPGThere is an artist here, Vero, who owns Naked Art, and she makes switch-plate art that I love so much. And in that crappy apartment I hung our first switch-plate. .



One thought on “Winter morning in Alabama…Episodes, Ellis Island, and the Bug Man

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s