CareTake 1


After her retirement as professor of post-modern philosophy at the university, Clarice Tempest promised herself that when the tasks of daily maintenance caused too much physical pain to her arthritic hands and limbs, she’d seek a caretaker.

She put it off as long as she could.

When it hurt to use the manual can-opener, she bought an electric one. When she could no longer unscrew jars, she stopped eating processed foods–everything fresh was healthier, anyway. But when it began to hurt to hang the laundry on the clothesline, she realized that the time had probably come.

The forgetfulness didn’t help matters.


“What am I doing here, Wolfie?” She asked her Abyssinian when she found herself standing in the kitchen.

The electric tea maker beeped.

“What is that? What’s that noise?”

Wolfie meowed and pointed his nose towards the appliance.

“Tea, what a brilliant suggestion, cat!” She poured herself a steaming cup of green Darjeeling.


Tea helps everything, she thought. But it didn’t. It didn’t help her to remember, or if it did, not enough, and it didn’t make the pain go away, or if it did, not sufficiently. She needed more help than could be delivered by dried leaves steeped in hot water.


The boys, her neighbors, were glad to hear she’d come to her senses.

“About time,” said one of them. She could never remember their names.


Brant and Bradley. Brick and Breck. Brent and Brian. They had the same last name, though they weren’t brothers. She called them Sonny and Lad. Mr. Sonny. Mr. Lad. Nicknames were a face-saver, masking the repeated lapse.

At any rate, they were glad to hear she was ready to bring in help.

“Hallelujah!” applauded Mr. Sonny.

“We know just the person,” said Mr. Lad.


Clarice felt bashful. They were prepared for this? Had they been expecting it along? Was it that obvious that she couldn’t care for herself, her dog, and her cat any more?

“He’s one of Brant’s students,” said Lad. “Oh! You’ll like this! He’s a philosophy major!”


“I started asking around after we talked about this last,” Mr. Sonny said.

Wait. They’d talked about this? She’d asked him to help find someone? She played along.

“He’s a great kid,” Mr. Sonny continued. “Junior. Good student. I’m his adviser. Get this: when he was in my research practicum, he wrote his paper on your book.”

Did anyone even read The Paradox of Wittgenstein: Transcending the Limitations of the Dialectic? Apparently so. It was flattering and slightly worrying. Suppose the boy wanted to talk about her thesis. Could she even recall it?


They agreed that Mr. Sonny could arrange for the student to come by, if he were still interested.

“A short interview is all that’s needed,” Clarice said. “I’ll know right away. Either he’ll fit, or he won’t.”

When he showed up after classes two days later, with a white dog in an absurd red shark costume, Clarice wasn’t so sure. By appearances, this would definitely not work out. But still, appearances could be misleading sometimes. She had to concede that she didn’t know right away, but she was willing to give the boy, as ridiculous as he seemed, a chance.


The dog raced past her, through the open door and into the house, as she walked out to greet them. No matter. Her shepherd, Wittgenstein, would keep this rogue mutt in line.


It was his get-up that made the boy ridiculous–a clown-colored shirt on his body, baby blue Punjabi jutti on his feet, and cat’s ears on his head.


“I’m kinda excited to meet you, Dr. Tempest,” he said. “Like, as in, sorta thrilled!” He giggled.


“Pleased to make your acquaintance, young man,” she said.

“Oh, you can call me–” and he said a name. Surely it was a good name, starting with a vowel. Not an A. Maybe an O. Or maybe an E. Yes, it was an E name. But Clarice couldn’t remember it for the life of her.


She called him Cat-ears.

“Might as well come inside, Cat-ears,” she said, “so we can figure out if this will work or not.”


When they got inside, they found that Sharkfin–he had another name, but she could never remember it–was charming Wolfie and Wittgenstein.


“Aw,” said Cat-ears. “You’ve got a really pretty dog. I’ve always loved Australian shepherds.”

And Sharkfin didn’t even get jealous when his master knelt down to share some love with the spotted dog.


He was sweet, she had to admit that, and she’d always had a soft spot for sweet boys.

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Author’s note: What’s this? A new story? It’s another Bonus Short! I hope you enjoy it. The awesome Emery (Cat-Ears) and Dilbert (Sharkfin) were game-generated, in these lovely get-ups, as if the game knew what story it wanted me to write.

Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 7

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin


Dearest Kaitlin,

There’s so much in your letter that I want to respond to, but let me put first things first.

I gather from your letter that you’re not feeling safe in regards to Newt, or Reid, either. It also sounds like you are ready to begin to take steps to divorce Newt.

It’s very important to have safety measures in place before you begin the procedures.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline,, is a great place to start, even before you begin filing any paperwork.

They can let you know how to develop a safety plan. Another valuable resource is, which offers information about how to file a restraining order, if needed (and don’t dismiss this possibility, just because you know and care for these two brothers). WomensLaw can also connect you with programs near you, including free and low-cost lawyers. Both of these resources are great first-stops as you begin your plans.

They offer free online chats, too, so when you feel you need to talk with anyone, 24/7, they’re there for you. My friend Micah told me that she would often call the hotline (1-800-799-7233) when she started feeling panicky. She said for the first dozen times she called, she wouldn’t even speak. She just held the phone to her ear and listened as the advocate stayed on the line with her. Knowing they were there, Micah said, gave her the strength she needed during the roughest times.


So I wanted to bring that up first because it’s the most important thing. You need to be safe. These resources can help.

I’m so glad that I can be on your support team! I know I’m not very good at giving support–like you say, I’m analytical! And my empathy doesn’t seem to translate into comforting words but into action-steps or intellectual theories.

Those websites I linked to also offer references to services near you that offer free support–nearly every town and city has a place like House of Hope, where those who have experienced domestic violence can go get support from others. This would be support that’s actual support–not like what I offer!

Guess what, though? I have exciting news! I’m ready to learn to be better at all of this! I’ve enrolled in a graduate program to get a master’s in art therapy! Classes start next month, but I’ve gotten a head-start on the readings and research. Oh. Man. Do I have a lot to learn! My dream is to be able to offer art therapy at HoH and the refugee center. I suspect that art offers a way to heal from past trauma, and so I want to learn how that works.


The best part is that as I learn more, I’ll be able to be a better support person for you!

You are already in my top-tier support! You’re so kind, so sharing and giving, and… just you! It makes me smile to think how everyone who has you in their life benefits.

OH! The other important part! Congratulations on becoming a new grandma! Jordan sounds lovely, and Brooke does, too.


I loved hearing about Dakota. You know that I’ve got a special spot for adopted kids. Ben sounds like such a good big brother. I know how valued a big brother can make a little sister feel!

Your feelings don’t sound like they are a mess to me, Kaitlin. They’re feelings! We have all sorts of feelings! And I can understand how you would still think of Newt with fondness and even love. It’s OK to do that and to also feel afraid of him and hate him, even, at the same time. We don’t have to have just one set of feelings! We feel what we feel. Our feelings don’t have to make sense.


I don’t think you need to force yourself to open up to Leroy more than you feel ready to. It’s evident that you love him and that he’s there for you. You can just take it as it comes, sharing what you feel ready to share without pushing yourself in ways that make you feel unsafe. Sometimes talking helps, and sometimes it doesn’t. Trusting yourself to know what you need in the moment might be the best approach at this point.

Well, some big changes have come into my life in conjunction with my decision to go back to school!

First there’s Youssef! He’s our new nanny. Since I wanted to be able to have time to focus on my studies, I decided I’d hire him. We both felt it would be good for him to start right away so that Jena could get used to him before I had to leave for classes.


She loves him! And he adores her! I feel so happy when I come home from the library to find them playing together or to see him reading her a bed-time story.


When Jena first came to me, it seemed best for it to be just the two of us. That let us form close bonds. And now, it seems right for Jena’s sphere of care-givers to expand. This is helping her to build trust as she sees that more people than just me can offer her love and nurturing.

It’s been a big help for me, too. Youssef is wise, kind, and has a wealth of experience. Being able to talk with him about the things I’m learning provides me with every bit as much as what Jena gets. We’re so happy to have him in our lives.


Just like with you, when you get one you get two, and our home circle seems to be expanding!

Did I mention my friend Mizuki Suzuki to you? (Don’t you love her name?) We met when she came to repair a broken stereo, and we became friends that first visit! Since then, our friendship’s deepened.

She is also going back to school when the new semester starts. She’s going to become a teacher! Because she lived all the way out in San Myshuno, and because she’ll be quitting her repair job to return to school here in Windenburg, and because Jena and I have this huge house all to ourselves, I invited her to move in with us.

And she accepted!


I’ve been amazed how much it helps having another adult in the home. Mizuki is so thoughtful, too, always looking to see what needs to be done and pitching in with a smile.


I think you would love her–she’s funny, childish, and creative. She will make a perfect primary school teacher! She’s focusing on the Waldorf method because, as she says, she wants to “educate the whole child!”

I joke that it’s a good thing. I wouldn’t want just half a child educated! Or just a third! And how would one decide which third? Shall you educate the right leg and stop there?

Whole is much better!

It turns out that for Mizuki there’s another benefit in living with us: She and Youssef have become an item!

I was so surprised to come home one day and find them in each other’s arms!


I felt a little awkward at first. Then Mizuki said that it simply happened quickly. They met here at our place, when Mizuki would come to visit. Then one day, before she even moved in, she dropped by while I was out and Youssef invited her in to wait for me, and they got talking and felt they had a connection. She hadn’t mentioned it to me when she moved in because at that point, it wasn’t romantic. But in the days after she moved in, it became so.

I find it sweet, and I’m happy that Jena can be around a loving couple.

I don’t seem to have any interests in romance, myself, or any romantic feelings towards other people. So I am happy that Jena can have a model of a healthy romantic relationship without my having to provide it!


Well, it seems there’s so much change in both our lives as our circles expand.

I want you to know that I’m always here for you. I’m enclosing my phone number, in case you ever want to call. It would be amazing to hear your voice!

Take good care of yourself, Kaitlin! I treasure you!

Lots of love,


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