After a long, exhausting day, I curl up in my bed and turn on the large screen sitting on my bedroom cabinet. And when I’ve stared into it for a while…suddenly…it’s all okay.

It’s okay that my spend my days at my overwhelming, soul-draining job because, hey, there’s always a chance that I might get on a reality show someday and win a million bucks. Maybe I’ll be the one who isn’t voted off the island. On Survivor, the Blue Collar team can beat the White Collar team, even though in real life they wouldn’t have a melting snowball’s chance of it.

It’s okay that a soldier gets his limbs blown off in one of our pointless wars, because he can still go on Dancing with the Stars.

It’s okay that there are parents out there who can’t afford medical care for their child, because the local news will tell me a heartwarming story about how their neighbors held a bake sale to try to raise the money.

It’s okay that Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are both part of the same oligarchy running the nation, because the debate between those two is going to be so exciting!

It’s okay if I make less than a man, because Beyonce will sing me a song about how girls run the world.

It’s okay if tigers go extinct, as long as we have enough dogs left to do stupid pet tricks.

Bright colors flash into my eyes and happy tunes jingle into my brain, until I finally pass out, the tension leaving my shoulders and back, the white noise of our entertainment culture droning on…It’s gonna be okay…It’s gonna be okay….

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For once, a coupling has taken place which is more disturbing to conservatives than any gay wedding can ever be.  Yes, Republicans and Democrats decided to get together and make a budget, and all day long, the sound of wailing and gnashing of teeth was heard on the talk radio airwaves.  The conservative dog had awkward interspecies sex with the liberal cat, and the resulting litter doesn’t appeal to anybody.

One could see the budget as a Christmas miracle, a moment when two sides which had long been warring with each other came together in peace.  But right wing radio listeners think this really is a war, so a deal isn’t just a deal, it’s abandoning your position to the enemy.  And so Paul Ryan, formerly the golden boy of the Ayn Rand brigade, is now being dragged through the mud by his own followers for consorting with the other side.

Mind you, there are things in this budget that I don’t like at all, as a progressive.  But, well, that’s the nature of compromise–you get things you don’t like.  It’s a sign of where we are as a country that a compromise is considered an apocalyptic event.  Perhaps, for all the talk about our desire for bipartisanship, we–secretly or not so secretly–prefer the drama and division?

http://interact.stltoday.com/pr/business/PR091412114910354

Link to the Decision 2012–Elect St Louis’ Favorite Pet contest, which is going to feature one dog, one cat and “independent candidates” (hamsters?).  At this point, I’m thinking I would much rather watch these guys debate each other until November.  I bet they’re not going to cut Medicare or lie about their marathon time.

Let’s face it, I would probably vote for a dog over a human any day anyway–for the honesty factor, if nothing else.  Too bad Seamus isn’t around anymore, maybe he could have been recruited.

To his credit, Julian noticed that I was depressed in the days following the war, and he got me a pug to make me feel better.  I found it sitting on our kitchen counter, dressed in a little coat and hat, staring at me with its bulging eyes.  I shuffled towards it, uneasy.

“I know, I know, those eyes!”  Julian crowed.  “I took the liberty of naming him.  He totally needs to be called Buggin.”

“Do you think it’s a good idea for us to get a dog right now?”

He hesitated.  “We kind of have to, Blue.  I mean, think about it, we don’t have any kids.  I don’t have anyone to carry on my family name.”

“Dogs don’t outlive people…”

“In this case, I’m not so sure.  I’m so fragile…”

I put the dog in my lap.  My political ideals were all but dead, my dreams were never going to happen.  My relationship wasn’t working.  Would this be my only legacy—a pet animal in costume?  What was I giving this world?

Buggin stuck his tongue out and rolled onto his back.

“Oh, he likes you!”  Julian said.  “Quick, scratch his belly!”

I scratched the upturned belly with difficulty, my fingers stumbling on the many fat folds.  Buggin appeared to be pleased.

“Don’t you think when he smiles he looks at least a little like me?”  Julian asked.

I figured I would be able to ignore Buggin most of the time.  Later that afternoon, I felt a sharp pain in my leg.  Buggin was biting into my calf.

“I think he’s trying to suck my blood, Julian,”  I said.

“He might just need you to feed him,”  Julian advised.

“Oh, right,”  I muttered.  “Food.”  I gave Buggin rice and beans, and watched him from my chair as he ate.

“He is almost like a real child—trying to suck my life essence away,”  I thought.

When he was done eating, he stuck his tongue out at me.

“He’s just way too cute!  You can’t be mad at that face,”  Julian said.

***

That weekend, I decided it was time to introduce Buggin Williams to the rest of his family.  I wrapped him in a blanket and took him on a trip back home with me.

“Look who I brought!”  I said.  Mother and RedGirl bent their heads over the swaddling clothes.  Buggin’s wrinkled face peered out.

“He’s beautiful!”  Mother said.

“Well, it’s good that you’ve got *something* to spend your time on,”  my sister observed, strolling off to the TV.

I followed her, handing Buggin off to Mother.

“I know I don’t have the kind of traditional family you think I should,”  I snarked.

My sister’s eyes were focused on the TV screen, but her face was drawn.  “For me, this isn’t just some game.  If Paul was still alive, maybe I could have a real baby.”

I sat down on the sofa, not sure what to say to her.  The thought of being pregnant had always filled me with terror.

When I got home I gave Buggin an extra long belly rub and let him sleep in bed with me.  He curled up on my chest, his body heavy, his claws skidding over my skin and a broad fold of a smile on his face.

***

“I want custody of Buggin,”  Julian told me a few weeks later.

“Why?”  I thought things had been going much better.  Except for him sleeping in the bed, Buggin and I had fallen into a peaceful routine of indifference to each other.

“You’re not very good at fulfilling your basic responsibilities.  Buggin has to bite you to get fed.”

“I’ve never seen you even try to feed him.”

“Isn’t that something the Mama’s supposed to do?”

“I’m not a Mama!”  I snarled.  “He’s a dog.”

“Still, I bet he likes me better,”  Julian said.

“Why would you think that?”  I felt weirdly worried.

Julian wiggled his fingers at Buggin.  “Buggie Bugs!  Tell us, Buggin, who do you love more?”

“Hey there, Buggin,”  I called out, a bit shakily.  “You like me, don’t you?”

Buggin didn’t react.  He sat looking out into space, his eyes impassive and his belly sticking out.  He probably wasn’t hungry just then.

“I don’t think he likes either one of us,”  I said.

“But you’re our baby!  Here, Buggin, come!”  Julian knelt down and stretched his arms out to him.

I couldn’t bear to watch this any longer.  “I hate to say this, but we might want to think about adopting out.”

***

It was plain to see that RedGirl was dying to tell me all about the sanctity of motherhood, but she made the wise choice and smiled at Buggin instead.  He wagged his tail slightly.

“He’s not very expressive,”  I said.

“Of course not,”  she chided me.  “He’s just a baby.”  She picked him up.  “It’ll be nice to have something to cuddle with,” she said.

“I’m glad to help.”  I was happy for her.  And I was happy for myself—I wouldn’t have to feel guilty anymore about not wanting to cuddle.

After she left with Buggin, I found Julian moping in the bedroom.

“We just never managed to win him over….  We couldn’t win a dog over,”  he repeated.  “What’s wrong with us?”

I flopped down on the bed.  “I thought when we got together you agreed that you didn’t want kids.  You don’t want to have kids, right?”

“I don’t know,”  he replied.  “It doesn’t matter.  It’s too late.  I don’t think we’re capable of raising children anymore.”

I rolled over and away from him, pressing my face into a pillow.  I wanted, more than anything, to go back to sleep.