3WW, "It's Just My Hue"

For Three Word Wednesday:

It’s Just My Hue
So people ask me, they say, “Andy, what did you do it? What’s the point?”
I mean, I wish I could tell you I did it for some worthy cause. Maybe pancreatic cancer awareness, or to protest the kidnap and rape of little girls in Nigeria.
I didn’t.
Truth is, I chose to go Black-and-White for strictly selfish reasons: I no longer have to match my socks to my shoes, or my ties with my dress shirts.
Think about it – no more worry, no more fuss. You just get up, pull together and outfit and everything – I mean everything – matches.
My boyfriend is still pretty miffed about it. I mean, he does fashion merchandising for a reputable mid-town department store, but he’s just going to have to get over it. And I keep telling him, I keep saying, “Nic, this is your big chance. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has merchandised to the Black-and-White before. It’s all new territory, babe.”

* * * 
OK, technically I’m not Black-and-White. If you must know, I went Monochrome. I am, to quote the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “a painting, drawing, or photograph in a single hue.”
Except that, yeah, I’m a human being. In shades of gray.

 * * *
People also ask me, they say, “Andy, what do you do about the stares you get on the subway? What about work?”
Good questions, really. At first, it didn’t bother me at all. The finger-pointing, the looks, the whispers. I took it all in stride. But yeah, it got to be like, whatever, people. I just popped in my ear buds and turned up the music. Slid on my shades.
Work, well, same thing, really. A slow burn I guess you’d call it.
I mean, technically there’s a no-discrimination policy at the firm, but the partners did their best to pressure me back into Colorization. I stood firm. I did. Told them I appreciated their concern when they brought up that a client might not want to be seen by a Monochrome, but I was quick to point out that it was a personal choice (albeit for my own personal vanity) and it was my choice. Please respect my wishes.

 * * *
The day I got my paycheck and it was light – and I mean light by a few hundred bucks – was the day I knew my choice to be Monochrome meant more than not having to match my socks to my shoes. That it was so much more than that.
I went to payroll and asked what the heck was wrong and they said that there had been so much uproar with the clients for my being Monochrome that it was decided to dock my pay by using some sort of bullshit moral turpitude clause in the employee handbook. OK, I said, no worries, I get it. I get that fact that a Monochromatic man can’t make the same as Coloreds.

 * * *

So, yeah, with the help of Derrek in legal, we’re going to test the firm’s new-found bullshit policy on the Monochromatic.
So much for my narcissism, bitches.  

Taking the Bait

A story I wrote back in 1998 about a bear study we were lucky enough to go out on:

TAKING THE BAIT

Redding Record Searchlight (CA) - Tuesday, July 14, 1998
Author: Thom Gabrukiewicz, Record Searchlight
DFG traps, tracks 'eating machines'

The study seeks information on how successful north state female black bears are in raising healthy cubs to join the adult population.

McCLOUD - American black bears are smart enough to tell an ice chest from a duffel bag in a locked car. They will extract the goods with lead-pipe cruelty and a mercenary sensibility.

But put a glob of strawberry jam on a rank, decomposed salmon head, wire it to the trigger of a culvert trap and the beasts can't resist getting caught. Over and over again.

''They're such eating machines that it just overpowers them,'' said Fred Schmalenberger, a U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist. ''Anything real stinky or real sweet works real well.''

Given time, bears will smell a trap.

''It's always a game of one-upmanship of catching these things,'' said Don Koch, a senior wildlife biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game in Redding. ''These things are smart. They will figure out how to throw the trap and get the bait. That's why we have to move them.''

Koch, Schmalenberger and three other researchers are in the sixth year of a 10-year DFG study to see how successful female black bears are in introducing yearlings into the adult population. Each year for about three months, bears are trapped, weighed, measured and tagged for study between Happy Camp and Somes Bar in western Siskiyou County and in the McCloud Flats on the Shasta-Siskiyou county line.

Females are fitted with a radio collar and the biologists will track the sows to winter dens. Biologists trek to the dens using cross-country skis, snowshoes, snowmobiles and snowcats to listen. Sounds will determine if the sow has given birth. Sounds will also be used to detect how many cubs are in the litter. Sows are capable of having one to four cubs, usually every other year. Cubs will stay with the sow for about a year.

This trapping season has been good. Twenty-two bears were trapped in 12 nights, with five recaptures. Trapping will continue through July.

Since 1992, Schmalenberger has helped capture 200 bears and fitted 71 with radio collars. The DFG has located collared bears by aircraft 1,050 times and has visited 93 dens. The study costs about $26,000 a year. Each radio collar costs $400.

There are an estimated 18,000 to 25,000 black bears in California. They range in color from blond to brown and from cinnamon to black .

Last week, DFG officials allowed the Record Searchlight to follow along for a morning check of the traps on private timber land near McCloud. The traps are set and checked twice a day.

Three culvert traps - basically giant tubes with a heavy grate on one end and a steel door on the other - yield three adult males. The first is a recapture of a 285-pound male tagged a few days before. In a fury of power, it is released. It takes seconds for the bear to disappear into the forest.

About 20 minutes down a dusty logging road, another trap is full.

''Ugh, another big male,'' says Stuart Itoga, a Forest Service wildlife biologist, as he illuminates the bear with a flashlight.

''This is work,'' Schmalenberger says. ''Females are a bit easier to handle.''

The bear is clearly agitated. It groans like a reveler recovering from a wicked hangover. It pops its jaw in a defensive posture. Once eye contact is made, the bear charges the grate and leaves the viewer stumbling backward, even though the tightly-woven grate wire is at least a quarter-inch thick.

''You never get used to it,'' Koch says. ''They don't enjoy eye contact.''

Littered around the trap are bits of rotting, spawned salmon parts from DFG hatcheries, ripped up tins of mackerel and cat food, and banana peels.

Schmalenberger gathers a pack and tackle box from the back of a pickup while Itoga readies a vial of Telazol, a veterinary anesthetic, to subdue the bear for about an hour.

The drug is delivered with a quick jab of a syringe fitted onto a flexible shaft.

''It takes about seven to 11 minutes for the bear to go down,'' Schmalenberger says. In 20 minutes, the bear gets another dose of the drug. Ten minutes later, there's a thump.

Itoga and Schmalenberger strain to drag the bear from the trap. It's covered with urine and feces. Itoga wears latex gloves, Schmalenberger does not. Flies, mosquitoes and meat bees drown out the rest of the forest sounds.

Information is recorded on a form that has 58 individual spaces for data.

Metal tags are attached to each ear. Itoga uses a leather punch to make the holes. Tissue samples from the punch are collected and put into a test tube for study .

The bear 's head is laid on a tarp and Schmalenberger extracts a premolar from behind the bear 's two-inch-long canine tooth. It's the only way to tell the exact age of the animal. Each year, another ring is added to the tooth. The premolar is sent to a lab to be sliced almost transparent. The rings are counted - just like the rings of a tree - giving an exact age.

The bear will not miss the tooth. Evolution has rendered it useless.

''Bears have an immune system that's just unbelievable,'' Schmalenberger says. ''If we catch this bear again in a week, the hole would be gone, healed.''

Itoga takes two blood samples for various tests. It's temperature is taken and is 100 degrees, perfect for a bear . The paws are measured, as is the bear 's girth, head width and length, and overall length. The men struggle to weigh the bear with a pulley scale. It weighs in at 306 pounds. Then the scale breaks.

''Boy, they are just in the greatest shape, the best I've seen in seven years,'' Schmalenberger says. ''This should be the worst time of year for them, just coming out of hibernation.''

Come fall, the bear could swell to 600 pounds. It depends on the food supply.

''They are very opportunistic feeders,'' Koch says.

The black bear , ursus americanus, is the lone species of bear in California. It's a shy creature that will retreat to the brush if spotted by man. But presented with easy food, Koch said, it will crash picnics, peel back car windows and pull down backpacker's food bags from trees.

Normally, bears feed on insects, pine cones, berries, acorns and the occasional fish.

But biologists in this study have learned that bears will eat other bears. They do it frequently. The radio collars emit two signals, once of which is a death beep.

Once, Koch said, biologists discovered a large adult male sleeping atop of a radio collar. A few remains were scattered about from a yearling that was wearing the collar. Cubs weigh about 30 pounds; yearlings weigh about 60 pounds.

Bears trapped and tranquilized in the study get a biologist babysitter until the Telazol wears off.

''They'll eat anything and just as soon walk by these guys and start feeding,'' Schmalenberger said.

''This is what it's like in a bear 's world,'' Koch said. 

Trinity in Remembrance, 1998-2014

The heart is heavy today. 

I had to put down Trinity, my 16-year-old border collie.

Sixteen years to the day I got her, I've realized. 

To celebrate her life, here are a couple of newspaper columns I did over the years - one about her coming into my life, the other just a funny look at what can happen when you live with dogs. 

A Pack Of Three
Since I have oodles of free time and, quite frankly, was getting way too much sleep, I decided to adopt a new puppy from Haven Humane Society about two weeks ago.

Trinity , my new border collie cross, came home March 14 with kennel cough, worms, some sort of parasite -- and a healthy appetite for digging holes and chewing on everything she could get her mouth around. It was everything a very organized, very clean individual, needs in his life.

I'm disheveled and cranky, the house is a wreck, my shoes have departed to the spare bedroom, the cats have moved to a life 5 feet off the floor and my 3-year-old Aussie cross, Scully, looks at me with pleading eyes -- little puppy jaws clamped firmly on her ear -- that scream why, why?

Why? All Trinity has to do is one cute thing and all is forgiven. In the first week, she learned to sit and lay down on command. We're still having some problems with piddling on the floors, but at least she's trainable. And Scully has learned to inflict enough pressure to let Trinity know her place.

We've evolved into a pack. A pack of three. Running buddies to the end.

Puppies are a lot of work, and not a decision to make lightly. For the past six months, I've thought about adding another dog to the clan. I looked at breeds -- Purina has a World Wide Web site (www.purina.com) that allows you to fill out a questionnaire and matches the best dog to your lifestyle -- and settled on a border collie. Nothing really caught my fancy until I went to Haven Humane on my lunch hour.

There she was, an almost pure white puppy with one blue eye and one brown eye. I spent the entire lunch hour playing with her. Then I left. I had to think some more.

Was I ready? Did I have enough time? Enough money?

I decided that if she was still there the next day, I'd take the plunge. She was and it's been a great, if not expensive, addition.

It cost me about $195 to adopt her, get her well and get her fixed. It was another $180 for a kennel, leash, lead, toys, food and rawhide chewies (to curb that teething).

I know I'm just getting started. Puppies need shots, heartworm medication and obedience classes. But there's memories to be made and I'm ready. Befriending Scully taught me that.

I adopted her a month before I moved to Redding and Scully has probably been to more rugged places in the state than some two-legged residents. She's been on snowshoe excursions on the flanks of Mt. Shasta and the ridges of the Latour State Forest; she has scaled the Castle Dome Trail in the Castle Crags Wilderness; chased snakes through the Caribou Wilderness and climbed downed logs (some 20 feet in the air) at Carson-Iceberg Wilderness; she has swam in the pools of Brandy Creek and paddled with me on Whiskeytown Lake; and she's watched from shore as I've chased trout across the north state.

I'll expose Trinity to the same adventures. The first steps begin in late May, when I'll take the dogs up the coast for a week of hiking. That should be a riot.

But we're a pack of three. And the adventures stretch before us like the north state vistas. 

Trinity Creates Her Own Chaos
For those who do not know me well, I tend to create my own chaos; the situations that befall me thus leak onto the people and pets I hold near and dear (though quite unintentionally).

Most of the time, my chaos presents itself as a Series of Unfortunate Incidents -- humorous stumbles that are recounted later in a light and breezy, back-handed manner. Reader's Digest moments.

Like last summer's river-rescue of my 12-year-old dog, Scully, which directly led to her retirement from large-scale outings. Looking back now, the 150-yard swim in the Sacramento River to rescue Scully from being swept all the way to the Delta has taken on the sepia-toned quality of a good yarn.

But sometimes, the bedlam stinks. Literally.

It was 11 p.m. on May 16 and I had found myself without a ride to the Sacramento International Airport. With nine hours to go before I needed to leave -- and I still had to pack for a two-week tour of the Midwest with my dad, his Chrysler and various graduation ceremonies spread from Kansas to Iowa.

Cell phone in play -- and trying to come up with names of people who would actually answer at that time of night -- I had the dogs in the 24-acre field across the street from my house.

Trinity, my 7-year-old border collie, bolted from my side and took off into the darkness in full-on search-and-destroy run.

Somewhere from within the recesses of my brain, a thought screamed out -- from that little piece of medulla oblongata that allowed our caveman ancestors to flee instinctively from predators -- "Skunk!"

"Be here at 7:30 a.m. OK?" I blurted into the phone. "I think Trin just found a skunk."

The striped skunk, common throughout North America, belongs to the family Mephitidae. Skunks are omnivorous, meaning they eat everything from insects and rodents to all manners of vegetation.

But what really sets skunks apart is the two walnut-sized glands near their backsides that can be used to secrete a yellowish oil composed of thiols and thioacetate derivatives -- from several feet away.

By the time I caught up to Trin, she had her face buried in the dirt.

She had been blasted square in the left eye and neck.

The smell made me gag.

I dumped her in the shower, turned on the water, soaped her up with Dawn dishwashing liquid and hurried to the store for the only viable solution I know will oxidize the thiols -- and lessen the stink.

The formula is thus: one quart fresh hydrogen peroxide, a quarter cup of baking soda and a teaspoon of Dawn dishwashing liquid. Mix well _ it'll foam up so you have to use it all -- and spread liberally to the affected area, being careful not to get it into the dog's eyes. Let it sit for five minutes, then rinse. Repeat as necessary (and you will repeat).

Anything you might wear while doing this will find its way to the trash. Trust me on this one.

And that's why, at 1 a.m. and again at 3:30 a.m. on May 17, I stood in my front yard, buck-nekked but for a pair of rubber gloves, spraying Trin off with the hose.

Thank goodness for the cover of darkness -- and a very quiet neighborhood.

That's a scene that's just way too hard to explain to the casual passerby. 



Troublemaker drops Sept. 23















FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SHERIDAN, Wyo. – Thom Gabrukiewicz’s first collection of flash fiction, Troublemaker, will be released on Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and iBooks on Sept. 23, 2013.

Troublemaker contains 30 flash fiction pieces Gabrukiewicz has written over the past eight years. The titles shift from light and whimsical to maliciously dark.

What is flash fiction exactly? That's hard to pin down, since opinions vary. Most flash fiction writers agree that the genre is brevity in action, a story that has been whittled down to its essence whilst remaining a complete story, with plot, narrative, character/s, conflict, and resolution.

In Troublemaker, the stories range anywhere from 300 to 2,000 words, meaning readers can consume a little or a lot at one sitting.

Thom Gabrukiewicz is both a communicator and a writer of flash fiction. Most of what he writes is kind of dark, with occasional forays into the light. He’s a winner of some awards and has covered two Winter Olympics for Scripps Howard News Service. He’s also written a guidebook about hiking with dogs. He’s worked in newsrooms across the U.S., most recently in Sioux Falls, S.D. and Redding, Calif. He currently lives and works in the wilds of Wyoming.

For more information, contact:

Thom Gabrukiewicz
tgabrukiewicz@gmail.com

3WW, "A Gross of Envy"

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are disgust, pout and wad. 


A Gross of Envy
He sat and watched the couple in a mix of outward disgust and regret, through his car windshield and the dust-caked windows of the convenience store.

He turned up the knob of the air conditioner, loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top button of the once-crisp oxford shirt, which had grown limp and somewhat dampish in the Texas heat.

His eyes never left the couple.

She sat with her back turned three-quarters to the window, a plump woman with pouty shoulders and hair the color of a mouse turd that she tied up into a ponytail. She wore a surgical scrub top the color of bubblegum. She laughed easily at the man’s stories, and each time she heard something particularly funny, her shoulders would wobble.

The man was huge, and not in a pleasing way. All rounded edges, lumps and bumps. He wore a white V-neck T-shirt under thin leather suspenders; a tuft of course chest hair protruded from the V, like a weed that sprouts from a crack in the concrete. His jowls shook when he talked, as did his supple man-tits.

He talked. A lot.

Her shoulders trembled in quick response.

He stretched tanned, manicured fingers upward from the leather-covered steering wheel and watched the scene unfold through the dual panes of glass. An uneasiness hung in his belly, but he couldn’t turn away.

The behemoth masticated on a burrito the store sold in a heated case near the do-it-yourself coffee and soda machines. The woman worked on a foot-long hotdog with the works, chunks of white onion falling like hail onto the red Formica tabletop in the store’s excuse for a dining room.

His mobile rang. Her favorite song. He sucked air into his lungs through his nose, one long hissing intake.

“Yeah?”

“It’s 7:30, where the fuck are you? We have a house full of people.”

“Getting ice, as you requested. Do we need one bag or two?”

“Jesus Christ. Three, I told you, three bags of ice. And hurry it up, would you? You’re seriously pissing me off.”

The screen went dark and he tossed the mobile haphazardly onto the black leather passenger seat and wove his fingers around the steering wheel and shook.

Yet his eyes never left the couple.

The hulk was nearing the terminus of another story, the pudgy fingers of his left hand making a point as the right held what was left of the burrito. Her shoulders vibrated uncontrollably.

And in an instant, he snatched a wadded ball of paper napkins from the tabletop and dabbed at the woman’s mouth before he planted a wet and sumptuous kiss upon her lips. She put both her hands around his massive head and massaged the buzz cut stubble.

Their embrace finally broke, and they quivered into more laughter.

And through two panes of glass and the oppressive Texas heat, he dabbed at his watery eyes with the corner of his silk tie, envious.