The weather is warming up in Arcata — which means it was 48 instead of 44 when I left to go on my morning walk with Zelda, and that it might hit 62 this afternoon. I am not complaining, though, because I know how hot it is in Florida and how miserable we would be if we were living there in the van while it was 95 degrees.

Zelda actually really loves this weather. She’s always eager to walk. I keep threatening her with a harness because she wants to run and I don’t like being dragged. Yes, my 18-pound, 15-year old dog is dragging me down the street. That’s good news.

I have no other news. I’m social-isolating like a good pandemic survivor, but Arcata in general seems to be starting to relax. Maybe it’s the weather; maybe it’s that there’ve been no new cases in Humboldt County for the past six days. I’m judging the relaxation by the number of people wandering by the van during the day and the number of people I see out when I’m walking the dog. I passed seven people on my walk yesterday, feeling guilty every time for having forgotten to wear the mask that Carol kindly sent me. Masks are running about 50/50, I think.

Yesterday, I made the Washington Post’s maple-mustard chicken thighs with cabbage. The day before it was gluten-free pizza, made with pesto & goat cheese instead of tomato sauce. On Saturday, we had cornmeal-crusted rockfish with jalapeño tartar sauce. On Friday, I made meatloaf with sautéed mushrooms as the binding agent, and roasted sweet potatoes. The common ingredient? Mostly the oven. I don’t think an oven is an essential kitchen tool — I can survive without one — but I’ve been enjoying having it. (The rockfish was pan-fried, though.)

Suzanne and I are also planning lots of house projects. Her kitchen currently has multiple splotches of yellow paint on the walls, and I’m fairly sure we’ve selected the winner. Next step, primer. Tomorrow the electrician comes to update the electricity in the Tiniest of Tiny Houses, and we’ve been browsing electric wall heaters online. Also mattresses and beds. It feels weird in the midst of the worldwide pandemic to be nesting, but maybe that’s exactly the right time to be nesting.

In writing, I seem to be working on Cici 2 again, although not very efficiently. Departing the planet feels like the right choice, though. I’d like to get back into my other story, but it’s just so hard to drown out my own pandemic knowledge in order to let my characters have fun at Disney World. I’ve written some snippets, too, while trying to find a story. Here’s one I wrote last week, funnily enough several days before Jenny Crusie posted a chicken snippet on her blog. Do pandemics put chickens on the mind? Maybe…

I like chickens. 

They’re such honest animals. They’re out for whatever they can get. They’re not nice, they’re not friendly, they don’t need to be.Their survival is their highest priority. 

People use their name like it’s an insult. “You chicken.” It means you’re a coward, right? But it should mean that you’re a survivor, willing to do whatever it takes  — peck, claw, screech — to get yours. 

Okay, sure, they’re kinda stupid. Slight problem there. But still, when my brother called me a chicken, I just narrowed my eyes and glared at him. I’m not stupid like a chicken, I don’t need to fall for that. 

“Go on, Kylie. You can do it.” He shoved my shoulder blade, just a little. Not such a hard shove that it was gonna knock me down or anything, but enough that if our mom had been watching — if our mom cared anymore — I could have complained and gotten him in trouble. 

But our mom wasn’t watching. She was sitting on the couch, staring at the television, her face as blank and dead as a zombie in one of the movies we weren’t supposed to watch. You could tell she couldn’t really see what she looking at. It was all just noise and flickering light to her. Maybe not even that. 

“I’m not going down there.” The open door was like a black hole, a portal to a netherworld of nightmare. 

“We need more beans. The beans are in the basement. Someone’s gotta get them and I gotta stir the eggs or they’ll burn.” 

“I can stir the eggs,” I suggested. 

“You’re not supposed to touch the stove.” 

I folded my arms across my chest, mutinous. 

“Go on,” Bradley snapped again. “Go on or you ain’t eating tonight.” He waved his wooden spatula at me threateningly, like maybe he was going to hit my head with it. 

I pointed at him. “Touch me with that and I will peck your eyeballs out.” 

He rolled the eyeballs in question. “Go. Get one of the bags of beans. And maybe a jar of peaches if there’s still a couple on the shelf.” 

I dropped my arms. Peaches? I liked peaches. A lot more than beans. 

And if I was a chicken — not the coward kind, but the survivor kind — I’d be willing to do a lot for peaches. I eyed the door again. 

It was dark down in the basement. Dark and smelly. But peaches… 

I held out my hand. “Gimme a knife.” 

“What? No.” Bradley stuck the spatula back in the eggs and stirred. 

“I want a weapon.” 

He sighed. “Here.” He grabbed a wooden spoon from the jar next to the stove and handed it to me, shaking his head. 

Fingers tight around the handle, I approached the doorway cautiously. 

Rereading it, I so want to know what’s waiting in the basement for her. Something must be!