Every day life, food & strangeness in a big city

Category: Random Stuff

Beautiful Berlin: A Winter’s Tale








On Gardeners

They say there’s a thin girl living in every fat girl’s body. In me, however, what is deeply, shamefully hidden, is the dream of being a competent gardener. Gardeners, especially if you ask the average British person, are the epitome of all that is good. During their mild summer evenings and long weekends, they can be found pottering around in their little green patch, outfitted with a charming, wide-brimmed straw hat, a pair of gardening gloves and a flowery apron. They will hum as happily as solitary bumblebees and smile as warmly as sun-kissed daisies. Come Monday, they will exchange said outfit for a dark three-piece suit and start a long commute to their office. Fortunately, work will be little more than a blissful space where they can meet fellow enthusiasts. No tea-break will go by without an animated conversation on the state of their darling hydrangeas or the fertility of their cherry trees, and advice will be swapped on the best fertilizers or the recipes to get rid of pests. Gardeners are even-tempered, and tend to take things calmly, whether rain or sunshine. They are industrious, gentle creators, basking in the love of their vegetal offspring. Such a communion comes naturally. Or does it?

It would certainly appear that way – perhaps because what no one likes to talk about are the black sheep of the talented gardening family. Although, in all honesty, a single good look around would reveal that they are legion. The ones who, despite their best intentions, make a right big mess of it, time after time. The ones who weep in the shadows, wondering why their fairy godmothers could not award them at least one green thumb. The clumsy, the careless, and the downright criminal. It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it.  I myself belong to this dark side and so may have the questionable pleasure of introducing my blighted relatives to you, one by one.

First, there is the lazy gardener. This distant cousin of the good gardener enjoys having a green oasis, yet would prefer to get no mud on his well-manicured hands, or let even one droplet of sweat mar his smooth brow. The lazy gardener could, of course, employ someone to do his dirty work for him, yet more often than not the solution to the problem seems to lie closer to home. If you ask for his secret, he might advise you to produce a few infants, pray fervently that they grow up at an alarming rate, and then start bribing them with candy in exchange for mowing the lawn and pruning your plants. Small children adore dirt anyway, and in order to develop social skills, what better playmates than a few bugs and twitching worms? Exercise is also necessary, and carrying big heavy water pots will serve to develop those tiny muscles. It’s a win-win situation, and his children will thank him for it later.

Equally reluctant to don the gloves and pick up the shears and shovels is the laid-back gardener. She will look out her window to the wilderness that used to be a neat little garden and now abounds with rodents of all size and shapes, birds ranging from shy sparrows to plump pigeons, and all manner of other creatures, and grin indulgently. The uncut grass will grow to savanna-like proportions, and foxes will twitch in outrage and take offence at the merest suggestion that the wall is not theirs to patrol day and night, or the ground theirs to burrow in. The small stone fountain will be chipped and full of cobwebs, but the lively robin will still love to bathe in it, wings a-flutter, after a good rainfall. The rosemary bush may be something out of a witch’s tale, crawling with spiders, but that’s all part of the derelict charm. The laid-back gardener will glance on it all and find it good.

Last but not least comes the worst of the lot – the garden killer. This specimen need only look at a plant with an ounce of interest, to ensure its speedy and certain demise. The garden killer means well, yet somehow manages to achieve disastrous results. His are all the dreary empty pots of flowers on the concrete balcony, cruel reminders of the relentless heat of summer and the unexplainable withering that followed. His is the incriminating, empty patch of scorched earth on the lawn. That patch that never fully recovered after he thought it might be a great idea to grill directly on the grass. Also his are the nervous-looking thin blades of grass emerging from said bald spot, after desperate attempts involving countless packets of seeds and sprinklings of purified water. His are the shriveled roots, the fly-ridden stalks, and the yellowing leaves. His is the hope that never dies.

So there you have it then – the delinquents of the gardening community. They are the ones whose clumsiness hangs to their fingertips as firmly as burrs to a sheep’s tail. They are the secretive ones, whose love of plants never dares speak its name. Yet this need not be so. Speak up, my brothers and sisters. Raise your chins high, and wear your names as a badge of honour. For every Lord Vishnu the Creator, there must be a Shiva the Destroyer. For every spot of light, there must be one of darkness. And for every one of them, there are a thousand of us.

How do people floss?

Today, as I was in the process of trying to pass my white minty mental floss through the gaps in my teeth and failed repeatedly, I realized how utterly rubbish I am at flossing. Until recently, I was a faithful user of those little tooth-pick like things with a semi-circle on top which holds a bit of string – like, say, a mini scythe / archery bow. They are practical and easy to employ, and my mom swears by them. You can’t really find them in good ol’ vampire land (or so she claims) so whenever I go home I take her a few packs containing a couple of hundred or so. Just so that she doesn’t re-use them (which she has confessed to doing in the past). Which is kinda gross.

When I came to New York City though, upon my inspection of the dental hygiene section in Duane Reade’s (local ubiquitous drugstore) I found out that the little floss-picks were very, very expensive. Well, no surprise there, everything in NYC is. But, determined not to get fleeced for the sake of my flossing, I decided to buy the slightly cheaper normal floss. I was taken a bit aback by the options – waxed versus unwaxed…(I still don’t know what that’s about) but figured that what’s nice for my legs can’t be all that terrible for my floss. Also, I was rather excited about the whole affair: on the one hand, because my mom insisted she could never use anything else than the picks, as normal floss is too impractical – so I really, really wanted to prove how much more technically gifted I was. On the other hand, this image of Dexter in the opening of the series was running through my head – all semi-sadistic yet precise floss-pulling until his fingers turn white… I wanted me some of that!

With me so far, right? so, all happy with my new dental floss which comes in a neat little packaging – I pull on it to get it out of its white box and cut it with my scissors… and then realized I might have cut too little to wrap around my fingers. Hmm. I cut more, wrap enough around my fingers, floss a gap between my front teeth – hey, this is easy, look mom, no hands!- when I realize something. I don’t want to continue flossing using the used part of the string. But in order to move it along, I would have to wrap a 1) used and 2) damp part of the floss around my finger. Yeew. I look, ponder… would scratch my head if my hands weren’t (literally) tied up. I see no other way. So I do it. And then repeat – and get more and more grossed out.

It’s not just that. It’s that the stupid floss gets slippery when wet. Also, some of my teeth (especially back ones) don’t seem to have any freaking gaps! it’s like some evil tooth fairy soldered them together when no one was paying attention one night. So I really, really need to try hard to get in there. Which involves a lot of bending and contorting, and weird hand and arm movements – but the worst of it is that my fingers tend to get in places they shouldn’t and end up scratching my gums or the roof of my mouth. And its counterpart. (Is that called the floor of the mouth?) Anyway. Also, because all this happens with my mouth wide open, saliva tends to trickle down my hands, to my wrists, and then slowly but surely down my arms to my elbows. (So that my main tip to anyone who attempts to floss is to wear short sleeves). After all this, I sometimes (rarely) manage to get that floss in. And then… yep. It won’t come out again. Seriously. For minutes. I pull, and pull, and pull, until I think I might pull a tooth or two, or break the floss and be left with just a little bit of string hanging seductively between a second and a third molar. At least it’s white, so no one will be able to tell but me, right?

Come to think of it, I have similar problems while brushing teeth. I tend to have problems keeping toothpaste on the toothbrush in the first place – the little bugger has a mind of its own and tends to tilt when I’m not looking and then fall down. And if you are wondering exactly where I would direct my attention in the second between placing toothpaste on the brush and actually beginning to brush, I am afraid I don’t have a very intelligent answer. Anyway, so more than half of the toothpaste has left the brush and is now in the sink, and before more of it can go on its jolly way, I start to brush in earnest. With my mouth open (although Mr. B keeps telling me that’s the wrong way to do it. But what does he know?) Not before long, the toothpaste is on my lips, on my wrist, and possibly on my leggings. I stop brushing. At which point Mr. B admonishes me that I hadn’t done it for long enough. But really, what’s the point?

There is one thing I do well however, and that is use mouthwater – the happy gurgling, the feeling of freshness afterwards – bliss! At least … I think I’m doing it well. Maybe someone should come and supervise me…

Moving platforms and Shabbat elevators

I could swear that I saw a “watch the gap” sign somewhere in an NYC subway station. Or was it a figment of my overactive imagination, a product of a mind so overwrought with the narrowness of the platforms, the stories of people being pushed down on the electrified rails, and the sight of rats cheerily running around everywhere it will just refuse to stare reality in the face while sending a perverse message urging me to do just that?  I had a whole speech prepared about cultural differences – musing on how the British say “mind the gap” and wondering why it may be so – is it that they have a fondness for the word “mind”? Mind your manners / I don’t really mind / why on earth would I mind / would you mind… why, no, I don’t mind at all! Is there an ingrained reluctance or absolutely terrifying fear to admit that one does mind something, so that when one is urged to mind an object, one is absolutely shocked and compelled into doing it?

And what about Americans and watching? true, the Brits have CCTV everywhere. But in the US you have to watch your kid / your dog / your cat that you might accidentally cook up in the microwave; watch it, buster, or I’ll… what? what could the incentive be to watch, when New Yorkers prefer to stroll rapidly, and give nothing more than short, furtive or impersonal glances? Alas, those questions are better left to minds on a more enlightened path than mine.

What I can offer you though is this:



Have you seen one before? It actually looks like this if you want a fuller picture – and yes, folks, there is a metalic grid / platform in some stations of the subway (14 St Union Square for example) that moves out to bridge the gawping abyss between the train and the itsy–bitsy platform. It’s kind of cool:


Another thing I have first laid my eyes on here in New York City is the Shabbat elevator. You are now in the process of scratching your head and wondering what that might be? Fear not, Baddie to the rescue. Listen, and listen well: the Shabbat elevator, as discovered in one of the NYU residential halls (which shall remain unnamed at this time) is an elevator programmed to stop at certain floors automatically from Friday evening to Saturday evening. It is involved in a “Shabbat cycle” meant to facilitate Jewish religious observance of the prohibition to actively use technology. I sincerely applaud this – because it’s probably a small change for the institution but a great thing for the religiously observant residents. And yet. I have SO many questions about how this actually works. I mean, I got it that when I got on it and pressed a button, it stopped on the 7th floor automatically (although there was no one there anyway and no one wanted to get off there). Alright. But what if you are on the 7th floor and can’t press the button. And there’s no one around who is not observant. How does the lift know to come? I mean, ok if you take it from downstairs it might have a weight sensor inside (don’t know if this is the case, just guessing it might be an idea). But if you’re outside it, then what? do you wait eternally just in case someone might come by with your elevator? it boggles my mind. Also, I hope that’s not true and that there isn’t someone, somewhere, still waiting for a Shabbat elevator to arrive. I really, really, hope not.


A tale told by an idiot – Alan Cumming on Broadway

Tonight, I went to see acclaimed Scottish actor Alan Cumming in the one-man show version of Macbeth currently at the Barrymore theatre on Broadway. The play itself premiered in 1985 in Glasgow, and was a smashing success at the Lincoln Center in New York last year. I had high expectations, to say the least.

I knew this would be an evening to remember from the moment I set foot in the (classical-looking) theatre. I was passed on from usher to usher like an unwanted old relative – and what was even more extraordinary was that said ushers were dispersed at 5-meter intervals from each other. Now, you’d think I would be passed along linearly – as in “yes miss, please proceed to my colleague.” While this phrase was indeed heard by me – and often – I was passed like a ping-pong ball along a string of four people, back and forth, for about ten minutes. Finally, as I was nearing the end of my tether and getting ready to snap, one of them decided to take mercy and allowed me to go up a certain path, pointing out it was the best way. Kind reader, that it was not. As it turned out, I had to literally jump up a very tall narrow platform which I was pretty sure is not supposed to be jumped on in order to reach my seat. There were steps at the other side of the row. But never mind all that. I was there. On the top of the world. Aka last row mezzanine.

My second little surprise came from when I opened up the playbill and started reading about the main (and sole) actor of the play. I quote: “Since he exploded on Broadway [he] has published a novel; directed a musical condom commercial; provided the animated voices for a Smurf, a goat, and Hitler; and released the fragrances Cumming and 2nd Cumming, along with the bar soap Cumming in a Bar and body lotion Cumming All Over.” Excuuuuuse me? I looked again, and there it was, white font on a green background – “released the fragrances”… oh. my. I swiftly made a mental note to a) be prepared for the unexpected and b) try to look into some sort of PG-rating for my blog just in case. According to my new precious oracle aka “the Playbill” Cumming is also “one of the three most fun people in show business.” Huh. At a loss about what that could possibly mean, precisely. So as the lights dimmed, my curiosity had reached a burning point.

Without giving too much away, there is a frame to the well known Scottish play – the setting is an asylum. Cumming – the only patient – is confined within a bare, clinical looking room with very little furniture – and is left mainly to his own devices by (we assume) his silent doctor and nurse. Apart from matter-of-fact interventions when the patient gets agitated, and some delivery of meals or injections, the duo seems happy to observe the patient from above through a glass window. This takes place in a highly disturbing manner which not only brings to mind Foucault’s thoughts on the institution of the asylum, and Deleuze’s further notions on the societies of discipline, but also uncannily mirrors the positions of the members of the audience found in the mezannine. My position, to be more exact.

Cumming is truly an incadescent actor. He can weave seemlessly through multiple characters and characteristics – although his transformations from one character to another are sometimes so rapid, that if you either blink, or if you don’t know the play very well indeed, you will have missed who is speaking. He does amazing work with limited props – just raising and dropping a sheet can signal – effectively – the change between Lady Macbeth and her husband. His mastery of accents, tones, and modulations, is admirable. He clothes the characters in vivid mantles. And yet there are notes of discrepancy. Lady Macbeth is played at times as a lush, enchanting woman, and at others as a stereotypical nag. Good King Duncan is so much of a charicature – of either an English toff, a somewhat backward fellow, or an utter fool, one is uncertain which  – that one is led to think Scotland is probably better off without him. Expansive gestures and drawn-out vowels cause laughs, and while far be it from me to suggest that laughter is out of place in a Shakespearean play, one is not quite sure what to make of this kind of laughter and mockery, which is that of the farce.

It is not the humour that stays with you though. It’s the poignancy of Macbeth realizing he has lost everything; of lady Macbeth descending into madness; and most of all, the utter vulnerability and darkness of the poor lithe madman in whose mind we are allowed to glimpse. The fits, the despair, the inexorability of the workings of an unhinged mind – and the realization that we, as the audience, knowing the story beforehand, especially without the frame, are as trapped in it as he is. For us, the story he plays out is more real than his reality of the asylum – despite what we see. There is no escape – and the experience becomes transcendent – we are completely immersed inside the mind of a madman.

The play starts with the patient posing a question to the doctor and his nurse. “When shall we three meet again?” he asks pitifully. As the two depart, the madman embarks on his enactment of the story of Macbeth. 140 minutes later, half dead after what looks like a purging bath or attempted suicide, he restores the doll which stands for Malcom to its wheel-chair throne, proclaiming it to be the King of Scotland. His caretakers rush to his wrap his shivering naked body in blankets, and as they make to leave, the same question leaves his lips, signalling the commencement of a new cycle: “When shall we three meet again?” Every night, I would like to say. I would be there every night, and each night I would revel exponentially in the entrapment.


The Brilliance of a British accent

For all of the three and a bit years I lived in London, all people could hear was my American accent. They picked up on it in an instant, and gave me slightly accusatory looks – or as accusatory as the British can get, in their aren’t-we-all-lovely-even-if-you-sound-American-let’s-have-a-cuppa-anyway manner. I gave my usual excuses – I had been brought up on American TV, and I did have a Peace Corps volunteer as a teacher in school at some point… my sheepish mumblings were accepted and the topic was never mentioned again, but I still felt as if my voice had committed a faux-pas to be frowned on. A bit like Mr. Darcy refusing to dance with Lizzie Bennet – it was all swept under a rug of smiles on the surface, but we all knew something was irretrievably wrong.

By contrast, almost since the first moment I set foot in New York, everyone – and I do mean everyone – has been asking me whether I’m British. Or commenting on the loveliness of my accent. Shop assistants, waiters, people at parties and social events, I swear even the ubiquitous rats perk up their ears and twitch their whiskers in appreciation. It’s incredibly flattering – and while I don’t think that I sound particularly British, I guess I do tend to go “aah” instead of “ehh” and throw in a flowery non-American phrase now and then – because… well, that’s how I speak.

I have yet to see any real effects of the British Accent™ here in the US, but I do suspect that its power might be real. I am also afraid that there are some out there who wouldn’t shy away from misusing that power for …(gasp)… their own wicked purposes! You snicker, beloved reader – but mind my words, they are among us. They are sneaky. And they are putting on outrageous accents!

I already have a suspect on my list, you see. It’s someone from my residence hall. As I was picking up a parcel (“you mean package?” ” no, I mean parcel”) from the mail room downstairs the other day, I heard this bloke behind me chatting with the girl at the desk. “Oh yesh, I live on the elevunth floor, my deaaaarh” he trumpeted, laying it on as thickly as vocally possible. “Would you sign here?” the innocent gal inquired. “I would love to!” came the enthusiastic reply. Love to? LOVE to? it’s a pen, you move along on paper, to scribble something as proof you picked up your stuff. What’s there to love? Unless a pen-fetish is involved (not judging here, really, if you’re in a serious relation with a pen, please move along, this is not addressed to you).

I cringed at this guy’s flamboyance, put it down as some lame effort to flirt, and went out. Ten seconds later, as I was waiting for the lift, guess who sidled up to me. You’ve got it. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that a) he was carrying a rather big box and b) he wasn’t ugly enough to need an accent; actually, he wasn’t bad looking at all. “Hmmm” he goes; and then sighs loudly. And then: “I really don’t want to wait for this elevator.” Oh really? don’t you just love waiting for it? goes the evil part of my brain. “Well, you could always take the stairs” I suggest snarkily. “I could … to the 11th floor?” I nod slightly, in a do-as-you-please-and-stop-bothering-me way. “With THIS box?” Oh for heaven’s sake. He obviously wants me to commiserate. “So what’s in the box? Is it a lamp?” I ask casually. “No, it’s an electric guitar” he proclaims, filled with pride. Hmm. There it goes. “Oh, do you play?” I continue, as non-committally as possible. “Yes” he beams with all his might. I am supposed to be impressed, I can tell. I stay as quiet as a church mouse.

“Say, where are you from?” is his next question. “Because I overheard you in the mail room… and I was wondering.” “I’m kind of… from all over Europe.” “But exactly?” he persists. “Born and raised in Romania, lived for many years in Germany, spent some time in the UK…” “Ah, I thought I heard some Eastern European accent!” Oh please. I highly doubt it. My accent sounds nothing like a Eastern European one. “And some British.” I shrug. “I’m half British myself. Born and raised in London.” Oh really. I nod, and say that I thought as much. Even with the obvious pains he was going through in order to hide it. No, I didn’t say that last bit. He looks crestfallen. How can anyone fail to swoon at his musical skills or his heritage? I can feel a palpable quivering of discontentment on my right but I look pointedly ahead and ignore it.

Because …what I would absolutely love is for accents to be enjoyed, appreciated, revelled in – and left completely agenda-free.

Musings on metropolises of the world

When the weather gets warm and spring-like, Paris starts smelling of wee. New York starts smelling of weed.

One Day of Firsts – in 10 Words

NYC hotdog – bleah. Metropolitan Opera – glitzy. Threesome. MMF. (On stage!).

Things American movies don’t teach you about life in New York

New York is expensive. Really expensive. This coming from someone who grinned and bore it for three years in London. What gets to me is not that all the food, and the cosmetics, and all other everyday items are at least a third, if not twice as expensive as in Europe. No, what truly gets to me is that once I have reconciled myself to paying an outrageous amount for something I would otherwise starve / die / cry without, I get to the check-out – and they add a sales tax there, too. Anywhere between 4% and 9% as far as I can tell, although it’s a bit of a mystery still. I could weep as I shed the cash, I swear.

Oh and another thing. You get to the US, and decide roaming will cost you an arm and a leg – so you get a local pay-as-you go mobile phone sim. (AT&T, in my case). You insert it, you text your one New York friend, and you get a message from the network provider that it has cost you 20c. All grand so far. But here comes the good part: aforementioned friend texts you back – to congratulate you on getting an American number (!) – and seconds afterwards… you get a message from the network provider that it has cost you 20c. I kid you not. Unlike in Europe, where the sender pays and the recipient doesn’t, in the US you get charged for incoming and outgoing texts. And calls. And for just looking at your phone, I imagine.

And since we’re on the topic of sh**ty things, let me wax lyrical about American toilets. Their bowls are filled with water almost to the brim in readiness for what is to come – which certainly makes things interesting, to say the least. Their toilet paper – why it is as fine as Japanese rice paper, as thin and fragile and see-through as ancient Egyptian papyri. Their two taps for hot and cold water are less extremist than their British counterparts though – which sort of cause either scalding or frostbite on a regular basis – and for this I am mightily thankful.

Last but not least, I’ll try, if not to debunk, then merely to make a humble addition to an old stereotype. People say Americans have a predilection towards being loud. Well, I say, (for a minute ignoring the sweeping nature of that statement) what they also have is exceptional, super-hero type fine hearing. I have so far encountered at least five separate people who heard what I said to them even if it was a) mumbled b) drowned by some other noise c) barely heard by myself. It’s uncanny. And so cool!

Baddie and Creative Writing: The Craingris Picker

Disclaimer: this is not a true story. It’s an assignment for one of my classes. Genre: sci-fi (sort of). Compulsory element: creepy hallway. Enjoy.

The Craingris Picker

She was dreaming of fields of craingris, long strips of glistening red bulbs languishing in the light. Their pink effusions, a soft powdery cloud rising demurely, and then being sifted through by the breeze, lingering over the nearby pools of clear water. She was a young girl, alive with joy and trepidation. Her first harvest, at last! She bowed correctly, and splayed her fingers in the manner her grandparents taught her, securing red orbs between each gap. “A light touch, and the craingris will yield” she remembered their stern lesson. “A clumsy one, and the plant will turn purple; the veins in the bulb will fire up, and it will wither instantly thereafter. There’s nothing you can do to save it.”

To save it. Save it… wait. There’s something else that needs saving, something closer, something as precious as the craingris… If only she could just remember. She shook her head once, twice, and tried opening her eyes. Her eyelashes were stuck together, and when she willed them open, they refused to listen. In the darkness, she felt around her. A cold, smooth floor, under her prone body. Her palm swept along it, caressing the surface. She was hungry, she realized, for sensations.  Next, she attempted to rise, but her brain’s command reached only a void. No good, then. Slowly, carefully, she splayed her fingers, and pushed them forwards. One inch at a time, just follow your fingers, her mind whispered, as she began to crawl.

An empty silence surrounded her.  She was moving along what seemed an endless narrow corridor, high walls to her left and to her right. One inch, and then one more, although her limbs were screaming at her to stop. Something to save… or someone? It wasn’t clear. Her breath was coming out erratically now, and she let out a strangled, low-pitched sound of disquiet. One moment’s inattention, and her left index brushed against her right hand’s wrist. Her fingertip traced a round, metallic bracelet , icy to the touch. “A tranquilink” she thought in a flash, and then it was all lost – she was in the crimson field again, placing the lid on her tall basket, and Skeer was coming towards her with a smile on his handsome, swarthy face. It was her fifth harvest, and she had never seen a man her age before.  He turned his head a fraction in the light, and her heart started humming, buzzing…

Startled, she shivered herself awake. No, no,  the tranquilinks will do that, they’ll try to make her stray from her path… She zoned in on the sound, and realized that it must be a generator, just come to life. If only she could reach it, there would be power there, and someone who’d come to check on it, and her… and… was she forgetting something? Something important?  She slithered forward, using up her last bit of energy. “Energy” Skeer argued. “It’s all about energy. The craingris gives it to us, we rely on it completely for our bodies to function. And once it is gone, then what? Will we be better than our ancestors?  They killed each other, Leah.  Because there was no food, and they were starving. They turned on fellow men. For hundred-scores and hundred-scores of years, until there were just a few left. We have the craingris farms, your elders’, mine. But if that fails, if something were to happen…”

She reached the generator.  No sound came from it anymore. There was static though, traces left over by the humming, and she inhaled it greedily, thankful for a change to the emptiness. Too greedily – she choked – and as her body convulsed, she realized that there is a certain quality to the air – a staleness betraying a low level of oxygen. This… couldn’t be true. Who’d put her here? who…? Skeer’s iridescent eyes appeared before her, and she sighed. A peacock’s eyes, with their hues of moss, and bronze, and butterfly blue. A mutation, most likely caused by eating the craingris, but much more captivating than her own pale tawny ones. Skeer – he said he’d help her. He had stared at her unblinkingly, and somber, and she had believed him. He’d save her – he would get her out – if only she would wait for him.

She forced herself to take shallower, measured breaths. Three seconds break, and then a little intake of air. Repeat. Repeat. Tranquilinks would not work when the brain was deprived of oxygen. One, two… Skeer save her? But Skeer’s dead! Breathe in… warm glow of craingris-picking days… breathe out, and hold. Dead, like the rest of them. And tranquilinks… are used to lull the dying… and the mad.  My dreams, these memories … Breathe in… oh Skeer’s arms, she’s in his arms and laughing…breathe out… and hold. Hold. The bulbs are rotting, and she’s glad. A pest, an unseen one, working as Skeer promised. She picks them up, each infected bulb as precious now as a new born child, and glides among the rows of plants, surveying each colony of healthy craingris with a watchful eye. She chooses the remote spots, the ones no one would think to check, and places the intruders there. Perfect. Skeer would be so proud. And when the time would come, and red crops would turn grey, when all the ones she knew would starve and die, she would be safe, away from everybody, safe from hunger. Safe, in a sealed-up hall with bracelets giving happy dreams.