How I wrote/drew my way to (some) immortality....
I was depressed. Crack fiends had trashed my place in the rooming
house, and Ideat Village (our local fringe festival) loomed ahead. I
wanted to get back on the map, and my "Maker crafts made while I was
Homeless" (including a beautiful scarf of yarn that apparently is now
unobtainable) were all in a landfill (one of the fiends had a cleaning
fetish). I was desolate, living in a shelter.
One of the things that kept me afloat was the local Barnes &
Noble. Yes, yes, I live in a university town in a blue state, and yes,
I'm supposed to talk about how my life simply revolves around
independent bookstores, what with their friendly staff and greater than
Starbucks' coffee, but, to be quite honest, we have only two indie
bookstores, both desperate for money, which precludes niceties like
comfy chairs and smalltalk with nonbuying customers, as opposed to
packing the place with actual stock and sucking up to hot foreign
students with deeper pockets. So I hang out in Barnes & Noble, where
the staff is middle-aged, the chairs pillowlike and there's a ready
supply of funstuff with which I can play for long periods without (too)
Stuff like the Giant Microbes. If you're not acquainted, they're
softball-sized models of various microscopic organisms with teddy bear
eyes, for doctors to keep in their offices and to teach kids about
disease. I grew fond of Black Death, which looks like a black hotdog
with eyes a little darker than a Siamese cat, not least because I'm
resistant to bubonic plague, which led to me using the doll as a puppet,
trying to infect me, to which I'd respond with a lot of silly
comebacks, like "I know, but I'm not in the mood for that kind of
Since I couldn't afford the doll, I found myself sketching it: bad
memory and a little wishful thinking gave him a profile more like a Sea
Mouse than a micro-organism, with a perky little noselike "head" end and
a trailing "tail". The critter that ensued was named "Yersinia", for
the scientific name of the bacillus.
Yes, he's cute. Life in the shelter had given me a yearning for soft:
as a menopausal nullipara (admittedly) I wished for a child-substitute,
a pet...heck, just being able to lie on a sofa dreaming of soft, cute
things was a luxury. Brainstorming with myself, I gave him the precocity
of one of E.B. White's animal characters: he's encyclopedic about his
species, but gets concerned when someone's hurt in a cartoon.His
mannerisms were partly from memories of Ollie the Dragon: he'd lie on
his back to get what he wants, slap himself on a surface in frustration,
and generally think well of himself. I didn't care about making him too
sweet: as with cats, the fact that I'm putting cute characteristics on a
remorseless killer I figure about balances him out. He likes dancing,
flowers, humans and Campbell's tomato soup. He has no mouth, and eats,
breathes and excretes (by sweating ammonia) through his skin, which is
sensitive to all sorts of chemicals. He moves something like a large
brushbot.His lifelong ambition is to be symbiote to a human, but can't
figure out how.
His unnamed middle-aged spinster librarian counterpart is only called 'Hostess'.
I drew a variety of Y's, and wrote a short six-chapter novella where
he and Hostess meet, talk, carry on philosophical discussions and party
and he dies nobly. (I didn't want to be saddled with a series.)
He passed the test of the Dinner Crowd. Will, my friend at The
Institute, was enthusiastic."This could be a series!" he thrilled. A
friend drew a somewhat fanciful cartoon of Yersinia using a laptop,
cutely working the touchpad with his tail. As time went by, I began to
free-associate playlists of upbeat, psychedelic music, song lyrics, and
suchlike. I'd make a huge display and wear a plague
doctor's outfit. I had a
It was not altogether an easy time: I almost lost the drawings
several times, had to learn to sew books, grossly underestimated how
much printing/binding my own book would cost, and I had to get a 2 day
pass to get to go to the opening.
Well, a lot of people looked at the drawings. I sold some books. A
retarded woman (as in, D.D.) called him "heartbreakingly sweet". I got
into a (polite) debate with a Deep Green who wanted to bring back
the Black Plague to prune the human species, switched to a discussion
of what was and wasn't human, and ended up with him shouting "Where can
you find pure Nature?"
"Here." I said. "In this very room." I said, smiling like a Zen
Master. Life's interesting when you think of the biome not in terms, not
of photogenic megafauna and the unspoiled West but in terms of the
Small Folk. "You have ten times more Small Ones living on and in your
body than you have cells."
I would have gone to the Artists' Brunch at the end of the
exhibition, but someone stole the rest of the money for the month out of
my wallet, the doll, and my bike (jealous biotches).
Every so often someone wants another book. I'm happy to sew one. I've found the
source for those eyes, and am trying to come up with a pattern
for a Yersina that will look like my drawings....I hear Drew Oliver is a
lawyer, and would not take kindly to unauthorized mashups. Under the
guise of doing a Y fanfic, I'm doing 'alternate' episodes, At the Beach
and Bless Ye the Lord (the reference is to the Benedicte). The original novel is going to be CC'd and Kindled through Amazon's free publishing program when I
feel like it.