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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Sleep Is
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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it.

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Friday
Jun072013

Unexpected

I was writing the other day when a character went and did something I didn't expect. I have heard of this happening, this characters-behaving-as-if-they-had-free-will phenomenon, and I always assumed it was bullshit. I thought it was like when writers spoke of the Muse descending upon them and the Lord spaking through their fingertips in many tongues. How could something I write be unexpected when I wrote it? I called mystic bullshit on the whole idea.

And yet, there it was: one of my characters did a thing, and someone else responded, and before I knew it events were occurring that I never planned or thought about, and then also, lo, things didst become clear that before were driving me crazy. Frustratingly, the Thing that Happened (I know I'm being vague, forgive me) was awfully dark, and I'm trying to write a funny book, character, so thanks for making my job harder. Still, it was cool.

Also it was weird. It was Memorial Day, and it was beautiful out, and I was inside and I felt weird. My characters were running amok without my permission. I don't know about this book, I don't know if it works; all I know is on that day, it showed signs of life, and it was unnerving and great. But weird. I needed to get out. Henry and Scott were out, and Charlie the Dog was standing there staring at me, wondering why the hell I was staring at a metal object for hours at a time when there were so many smells out there, so much to pee on.

These days Charlie usually makes it about half a block before he does his thing and we're heading back home. He is old as fuck. He's healthy, but he's fifteen. (Or sixteen? Unclear.) His back legs are giving him some troubles, he's totally deaf and mostly blind, and other dogs confound him. So we make it a few feet from our house, then we head back and he limps up the stairs. But on this day, I thought, what the hell, let's try to make it to Prospect Park. It's a few blocks from our house, and we haven't been there in a while. I didn't think he could do it.

I had to more or less drag him the first two blocks, mostly because he is driven to pee on anything he encounters, but also because it takes him forever and he was limping and I felt like I was possibly overdoing it. But when we got within a block of the park, he figured out what was up. He stopped lollygagging. His slightly jerky walk turned into a trot, and as we entered the park, he broke into a run. I did not expect this. He would stop to sniff other dogs and canter in circles around them, then tear ass away as I struggled to keep up. People laughed at us. I laughed at us. The farther into the park we got, the faster he ran.

That's when he caught me off-guard and took off, the leash trailing behind him. Of course he's deaf, so he couldn't have heard me shouting for him even if I managed it, which I did not, as I was laughing too hard. There were tons of people around; I knew I'd get him back one way or another, like maybe if a young girl grabbed him as he sprinted right into her path, which he did, and she did.

The girl and her dad were highly amused by the two of us: Charlie was prancing and sneezing (he sneezes when he gets excited) and I was trying to catch my breath from both exertion and the inability to stop laughing. I told them how old he was, and they were appropriately impressed. Charlie submitted to their attentions, then puked in that off-hand way only a dog can pull off: whoa, something spilled out of my face, I feel fantastic now, do you have snacks for me? The two nice strangers who saved my dog took that as their opportunity to wave goodbye, so we made our way back, Charlie straining to run again, me holding tightly to his leash, wondering what else could possibly surprise me.


Charlie, post-run. 

Reader Comments (31)

Nice. A weirdly nice day for you and Charlie. Also, "spaking." Thank you for that.

June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJen

We have an old (14? 15? Also unclear) blind Lab as well and he's been known to get a second wind when he gets around other dogs. And that is exactly how dogs handle puking!

June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPamela

I don't know why this made me tear up. Happy tears? Sad tears? I don't know but it was emotional for me. Thank you. Thank you? I don't know.

June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

I love that, Jessica. Thank you!

June 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteralice

Charlie's burst of joie de vivre gave me a chill. Kind of emotional. Weird.

June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterReid

Did you think it would end in him dropping dead? Because I sort of did...

June 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteralice

about a year ago I figured out I like to use unexpected and delightful interchangeably.

this post is why.

I am smiling. thank you, the character and of course good ol' Charlie.

xo, Justine

June 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersugarleg

Awesome! Go, Charlie!!!
My dog (who is 12-ish) is so funny on walks...generally, if we are headed out...as in, just starting the walk, he's all motivated and trotting along. But when he senses we are headed back home it's "woe is me"-dragging paws all the way if he is not ready to return home. And if we get to a corner and I choose one path and he is determined to go another direction, he uses all the strength in his 11 pound body to stay firm and once I submit to going "his" way, he runs with glee in his chosen direction.

June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Sniffly over Charlie.

June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSchmutzie

I can't love your blind, deaf 15-yr-old dog breaking into a run enough! Thank you for this! (Can't wait to see the book ...)

June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKim

So, so sweet. It's like he remembered he was a sprightly dog after all. I can only imagine what was going on in his mind. Thanks for the glimpse inside. Writing is hard, and so glad you are up for the challenge and the adventure.

June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAsha

I didn't think he would die at the end--I didn't think you'd write it that way with no warning to your readers. But his demeanor on the walk had a whole Last Hurrah quality to it that was moving. He also reminded me of the old people in the movie "Cocoon." Have the aliens come for him yet?

June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterReid

Woah. You're writing FICTION? In astounded by people who can do that.

June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBritt Reints

I believe you.


I'm at the stage where if I hear people say "the book wrote itself" I stop listening. Maybe I'll change now.

June 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteralexandra

I've had that experience of having my fictional characters do stuff I wasn't expecting, and it is a bit unsettling but mostly kind of cool. Looking forward to reading the finished story!

I love reading about your dog. Our dog is weird and has to be dragged from under the couch to go for a walk. What dog doesn't want to walk?

June 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKorinthia

I'm with Jessica. This made me tear up too.

June 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

thank you!

June 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSharona Zee

Jessica and Ann, me too! Sudden, unexpected tears. Go Charlie!

June 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNora

My best girl (doggie friend) lived to 17 and was spry and awesome almost the whole time. Dogs have easy access to their inner puppy -- makes me think maybe old age is as much in the head as anything.

Good on ya, Charlie -- that's an awesome story for your fans and a fun day for your mama. :)

June 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaurenR

"Old as fuck"
I like you.
My dog is 10 and pisses on everything. Even when there is nothing in the tank. Just lifts the leg and passes air?
Weird.
I cannot write fiction so I give you mad props for that. I say roll with it. Characters with many dimensions make the book that much more interesting.

June 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

I loved this, and the part about you and Charlie in the park could have been a comic strip! And my dog totally does the excited sneeze too!

June 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNicci

This is my favourite thing to have read today - thank you! My old girl (retriever) is 14.5 and the ocean has the same effect on her - LOVE IT!

June 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

Whoa, better slow down with all the surprises, otherwise you will end up like that picture of Charlie.

On a side-note, I am jealous that you manage to stay so graceful under pressure when your dog runs away on the leash. I end up looking like a crazy person calling his name and flailing as if that will somehow make me run faster.

Good luck with the story.

June 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen

Yep...was teary by the end of the story. I kinda thought it might end with Charlie in dog heaven. Glad he was just sleeping. Can't wait for your book too!

June 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKate

This made me recall "Intrusions" by Ursula Hegi. Have you read it? Very meta take on the whole characters-having-minds-of-their-own thing.
Anyway, this post is lovely, in several different ways. Go, Charlie, go!

June 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmi

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