Understanding that Yukon and Bumble’s bedroom is their former living room, you can see why they might also entertain friends and guests there. Anyone with a studio apartment might know what I’m talking about too, as your bedroom is the living room and kitchen too. But doesn’t this remind you of when you were living with your folks? When I was a teen, having friends over meant having them in my bedroom. It was the only place with privacy, and it felt too formal to meet “in the parlor” (I never had one of those anyway!) or in the living room. We wanted to be able to talk to each other, laugh, look at my Stuff (comics, art, computer). Okay, technically I had no friends in high school, and no one came over to see me, but YOU all did, right? My brothers and sister had them—and they all met in their bedrooms. And from watching TV, I know this is what kids do—they live in their bedrooms with their friends.
Here is a hairy fairy seated comfortably in the garden-gloved hand of Yukon. (As you might remember, there were a few ginger-bearded fairies with red butterfly wings in my fairy paintings from last year). He’s come over to chat. If you also recall, these fairies are in a special place that doesn’t connect well to the rest of the world, and they were also afraid that they might get lost if they ever left their own protected garden. But sometimes it takes a brave soul to try— and be the explorer, see what is out there, and then attempt to get back. Sort of a Fairy’s Hero’s Journey!
Who said there were only two stories in the world: someone comes to town, someone leaves town? (I know Cory Doctorow has a novel by that name!) Someone gets a visitor, someone is a visitor. While I may not have had many visitors growing up or later–I have been a visitor many times. Let me tell you how much joy there is in visiting someone at their home. (I miss it. COVID sucks. )
I am so grateful to have been invited into so many homes, so many living rooms, given coffee or water or tea or pop, or food, and had great conversation for hours. I know the most amazing people! I always felt welcome. I always felt loved. I feel very blessed to know good people. I like being able to see people in their “natural habitat.” LOL. We don’t get to decorate the outside world much–or put in it what we would enjoy–but a home, and a bedroom especially, is very reflective of the individuals who live there. (I’ve barely tapped what is actually IN Yukon’s and Bumble’s bedroom/living room besides a HUGE bed, some chairs, dresser, and some paintings done by Bumble. I didn’t see much of Yukon in there… I need to talk to them about being a bit more even-handed in the way they decorate!) You can tell a lot about a person by what they have in their living room–and what they have in their bedroom? Are they different things? Since the bedroom is usually more private–what do we have in there for decor? As a teen, of course, your bedroom always reflected you–posters of your favorite movies, crushes, heroes, musicians.
What is in your bedroom that reflects you? (I move so much and live with so many people that lately I have not had a bedroom that reflects me as much..,) When I had a bedroom, I did have paintings that I made in it. I also had paintings by other people. I also have a special “chest” of what I think of as sacred pieces— little things that have meant a lot to me over the years that I collected in one place… gifts others have given to me, or little things that remind me of them. I keep them all in a special little chest I picked up in a Tuesday Morning once. It is made, I think, for a young girl and it has written on it DREAMS, ADVENTURE, with clouds and maps and things in purple and pink and cream—but I liked it! lol. This chest though, meant that I could make my Room MOBILE. I could always put my “things” in my new room, wherever I was, and make it feel like me for whatever time I was there.
I hope this fairy has a great time visiting Yukon and Bumble and that they can show him how to get back “home” so he doesn’t have to think of visiting others as the consolation for never having a home again. I would love for him to tell the others that it’s possible–if they want–to leave and come back again.
I hope one day to have a home where people come and visit me, so that I can return the favor of being the guest, the visitor, in so many other places. I hope to see you all again soon. I also hope YOU have visitors who come to you and give you joy. I hope you are visitors to others to bring your joy to them. I hope you entertain and are entertained this holiday season. I hope you know what it is to be the guest, to be the host, and to savor both those opportunities to know other people. Love generously. Befriend hugely. Spread love and joy. We need to spread something good this year.
Our bedrooms are private vaults–we keep our secrets in here. We only show them to people we trust. We don’t let just anyone in. Safe to be ourselves in our room, we relax knowing we are in a private sanctum. This room is locked tight, we think. Except… that balcony… that window.
“What is happening in this painting, Jerome??”
Why is it that, in movies, supernatural entities all seem to have a key to every balcony door and bedroom window? The strange things enter in through windows of the bedroom–whether it is Dracula at the balcony of Mina’s bedroom, or Frankenstein entering through the balcony to kill Victor’s wife, or George Hamilton’s Dracula in the 70s alighting on Susan St. James’ balcony saying with a sly smile as the breeze pushes the curtains away, “With you, never a quickie. Always a longie.” It is the beating on the bedroom window of the gnarly tree in Poltergeist, the giant vulture who brings a cage every night to the balcony of Andromeda to carry her away to see Calibos in Clash of the Titans, The Snowman coming to take James on a magical flight to the Arctic, Romeo climbing up to see Juliet, Aladdin alighting on Jasmine’s balcony, Salem Lot’s child at the window, Phantom of the Opera, Peter Pan, Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
The bedroom, inaccessible? Every rogue, bandit, and monster knows how to get into an upstairs window! These three moth men have no trouble. Maybe Yukon left it open because it was hot. It makes sense that horror movies capitalize on bedroom windows–the only way into our security from the outside. But erotic and romantic stories also play with balconies–as the passage into the forbidden room, the access to the Lover that bypasses the guards, the parents, the doors. Romantic fantasies quiver on the possibility of love working hard to find us, especially when we’ve failed to find love before. Fantasies use them as launchpads and gateways to the mysterious and wondrous waiting just outside. “I can show you the world…”
Are we frightened or intrigued by these access points? Something has gotten in and sees us–sees the private things we hide! Oh my. Just what kinds of things are we letting in to our bedrooms?
Our thoughts are the real access points–the other window into our rooms, our sleep –and those we can control, sometimes.
I’ve had a lot of bad dreams and scary moments in my bedrooms. Being a sensitive, imaginative kid, I experienced my share of nighttime paralysis where I would see things in my room that would frighten me–still frighten me. Heads rising up the wall, children coming in and out of the closet, covers being pulled off by invisible hands. I’ve heard voices in my room fly down from the ceiling and whip past my ear telling me I was not safe. It looked like a fortress, didn’t it? Who let these things in?
However, I’ve also had some good dreams of someone coming to take me on journeys, flights, or back up to the Enterprise to live my new life. I’ve imagined lovers, or werewolves that just need a place to stay until the hunting party leaves the forest, or angels watching over me, or fun dreams of wandering through castles, or dogs that I know from the past finding me. Some of us pray in our bedrooms, allowing a safe protective spirit of God or Spirit to enter and comfort us. We want to have good things in our dreams, our thoughts, our hopes! We want to imagine the positive possibilities. We want to have choices about what gets in–what gets access–who sees us–what gets barred.
This was my second painting in the Yukon series, back in art school. The surprise on Yukon’s face! The three moth men coming in through the window to scare him?? to cuddle with him?? I got a lot of kidding by my fellow artists about the magically-supported sheets up against his legs. I swear I just didn’t get the folds right, and now it looks like something else is holding them up. How much fun it was to create this painting!–kind of a taboo for me to break. A giant naked man. My first. I still get asked if this is my body. Why do people want to know? That’s a very private question! I think they want to know because they assume I’m making the private public and that I want public question about what should be unknown. They think they’ve seen something private from my bedroom. They think I’ve given them access to a private fantasy! HAHA, they say! I’ve let them in. Any question is okay now….
Well, mothmen coming in my window, hmm; it is a nicer thought than the fears I used to have about things in my bedroom. I used to be afraid to go to sleep because of recurring nightmares. But I’ve gotten into the habit of thinking of awesome things happening–or reading happier, cozier, fantasy books before bed, or watching something light and fun before I sleep. I fill my room with fantasy and imagination before I sleep. I laugh.
Our dream life and our fantasy life need to crowd out our Fear life. If we have to think about the future in the face of the unknown, let it be warm, inviting, magical and mystical things that mean us no harm. The fantasies (or horrors) we allow into our minds color the way we experience the world–as a place of hope or harm around every corner. They can give us good sleep or no sleep. I choose to believe that there is hope around the corner because I want to open up my window to the fantasies and the magic and be vulnerable to the possibility of joy.
May good thoughts and good fantasies fill your minds and rooms this holiday season!
This is part of the “The Bedroom is Our Living Room,” as part of “The Further (Queer) Adventures of Yukon Cornelius” series of paintings I did, reimagining the prospector from the Christmas special as a gay man whose whole life is helping “Hiddens” (or as other people put it, Monsters) as they adapt to life in a world of often fearful humans. My way of talking about queer issues and queer life.
When I was a sick kid, I would stay in bed and my mom would put a plastic cup of 7-up and a wrapped stack of saltines by my bedside. She would often come in, sit beside me, and take a cool wet cloth and press it to my forehead. That cool damp cloth absorbed all the heat. That sensation lasted much longer than is physically possible from a wet cloth because her presence was really doing all the absorbing.
The bedroom can be the place of recovery. Studies show that sleep heals. Getting enough sleep is important to proper brain function, but also helps the body do its work while we are busy dreaming. But in case of a greater illness, the bedroom is where we gather our strength among all our sacred and familiar objects. Many of us have spent quite a long time in our bedrooms feeling sick, especially these last few years. Except, with COVID, it was difficult to be able to tend to each other because it was highly contagious.
During the plague in the Dark Ages, people who tended the sick, or stayed with those who were dying, would catch it and bring it back with them. They didn’t know how it was spread. Our very acts of compassion and community were being attacked. Still–(though not the plague)–my mom would stay with me through the flu or strep throat or whatever else knocks a kid off his feet. She endangered herself in order to care for me. I don’t remember if she ever caught the flu from us. I don’t think so. But she didn’t know she wouldn’t.
No one likes being sick. Some of us don’t like to bother the people near us with our sickness either–we choose to bear it alone so that no one has to be endangered because of us. Deep down, though, we want someone with us–someone who doesn’t mind us at our worst, or helpless, or dependent. These are traits that are so strongly hated in America today that we are embarrassed by our need and desire for each other. But we ache with needing each other too.
I remember every person who stayed with me when I was sick. I have forgotten a LOT of things… but I remember Dave in the ER when they couldn’t find a good vein and poked me three or four times in each elbow and on both hands and how I cried. I remember my mother standing beside the dentist when I had three wisdom teeth removed. I remember Doug who sat most of the night with me as I dealt with kidney stones in the ER of Whitehorse Hospital. I remember the first doctor who gave me lots of morphine when I had my first kidney stones. Thank you thank you. I have a skill at making them. (I should sell them!) My Dean of Student Services followed the ambulance when I had a panic attack (which we thought was a heart attack) in college. He was there when they told me to breathe in a paper bag after all of that drama and fuss. My heart remembered these people staying with me when I was hurt.
It seems like such a small thing, doesn’t it? To sit with someone. To be with someone. Not to entertain them, but just to endure with them the space of time that hurts. That time counts. It means everything. Maybe we don’t feel abandoned. Maybe we feel protected. Maybe we feel safe. But that presence beside us when we sleep binds our injuries, holds our bodies together, so they can heal.
The bedroom is a place of healing. And caregiving. And love expressed through easing each other’s pain. We hate when it happens, but it does open up a way to love each other that no other moment offers. It does not embarrass us to see each other dependent or make us hate them. Instead, it makes us value each other more, and each other’s health more. For a fortnight, we become a sentry, guarding each other, fighting off the illness together, till stealthy health comes sneaking back through the gates again.
Not every moment in our bedrooms is filled with Joy ™ or Love ™ or Companionship ™. Those we love and care about could be far away from us for a while. I know that Yukon and Bumble both have, sometimes, long assignments apart from each other. This can turn into a lot of long-distance conversations over a laptop or phone, lots of pizza, soft drinks, feelings of loneliness. How do we cope with missing someone—or not having someone?
Here are ways I’ve found helpful to keep long distance relationships going—and they can fluctuate between being together and enjoying being apart. I find if I balance those two things, it helps both of us. We need other ways to be happy outside of the relationship (that took me a long time to understand). These are just my suggestions—and I’m sure others have great ideas too. These may not work for everyone.
How to be TOGETHER, even apart:
JITSI/ZOOM/SKYPE/FACETIME: at least once a week, we try to meet in realtime on a video to talk to each other.
When we can’t or don’t have the time for ZOOM/SKYPE/JITSI, we use Telegram to send pictures, and write notes and send Voice Messages. We find Voice Messages to be the most effective way to communicate back and forth—you get to hear the full idea of your partner and then respond. We find that if it’s more than 6 min it looks scary—so we try to break it into parts; also if it does get above 6 min, we say “12 min message coming, all good stuff” so that no one thinks there’s a hard discussion hidden in there. We often share really deep stuff in voice messages—because they are like mini essays. And this encourages the other partner to share too. We also sometimes tell each other collaborative stories (because we both love scifi and fantasy)—that are just plain funny, or sometimes titillating. Sharing in a collaborative story can be very bonding.
If we have to have a hard discussion we NEVER use voice messages anymore… it’s too easy to rant, or to get longwinded or to misunderstand and then be 12 min behind the problem moment. ALWAYS CALL if there’s a disagreement… so you can talk it out together.
We watch movies or TV shows together—but apart. So we time when we’re going to watch a show we both like—and then we watch it together separately (not on a share program, but just both hit PLAY on Netflix etc at the same time) and then we send each other Voice Messages to discuss it! We did this with Andor and House of the Dragon.
We try to hear each other’s voice or see each other’s short video message (Telegram has 1 minute video messages) every day. Seeing a face, a smile, and hearing a voice can do wonders.
We send each other articles that we think the other would love (but NOT articles that “prove our point”—that doesn’t seem to be good.)
We send photos about our day. We share messages about our agendas for the day. Mundane, yes, but relationships are built on mundane stuff too.
We try to get to see each other physically at least once every 3 weeks—but we know that’s not always possible for everyone. We live 6 hours from each other. We have gone as long as 2 months without being together physically. It’s doable. But it takes a lot more screen time and message time.
We rarely use email—and he doesn’t have social media, so facebook and Instagram, etc are not on the table. So you may use these too to stay in touch with your partner.
How to ENJOY Being APART: I date myself when I’m alone. It’s like self-care—but with LOVE and INTENTION to make me happy.
I save good movies that I like and my partner isn’t into for times when we’re apart. I’m a big Marvel fan and Disney fan, so Disney + is a feel-good channel for me. Also Netflix and HBO Max. We both love Indie films so I save those for when we’re together… but Moon Knight and She-Hulk and the Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special are for moments by myself. I watch all my Tarot and Astrology and HOW TO ART videos when I’m alone.
I listen to my music. Sometimes loudly.
I work on pet projects. I have art and writing to get done. I do that when we’re not able to be together. (But I also do some of it when we are together, if I’m going to be with him for more than a couple of days.) I get to stay in my studio for 7-10 hours a day!! It’s fun!
I see Museum Exhibits, go to Coffeeshops, walk in the park—do things that I LOVE doing alone. I sometimes send him pictures of it afterwards, but I try to value my alone time too.
I buy foods that I love. I give myself little gifts of food—usually involving chocolate!
I buy myself little gifts online or in stores, when I’m in a store. Just something I know I will use or love. Like new paints (if I can afford them) or erasers!I read when I’m by myself. I love being able to be involved in a book. Deep and undisturbed. I may only be able to do this apart from my partner.
I call other people—my mom, birthmom, friends, or write them—or I arrange to have coffee with them or hang out with them. My partner can’t fulfill all my desires for company and conversation and friends are awesome. Having time with other people keeps us from also being “lonely.”
Church and clubs—if you have a social group outside of your relationship, it can help strengthen your resiliency when the two of you are apart. I always feel better knowing when my partner is visiting friends, his family, or is part of a group that is meeting. Then I know he is happy.It took me a long time to realize that happiness WITHOUT your partner is not just okay, it is good, and needed.
We may not always get rid of the lonely feelings we have when our partner is not with us—that’s okay. That’s natural. That’s love too. But we can minimize them when they become uncomfortable. We are fully rounded people with outside interests and ways of getting joy enhances our time together— two people ADDING to each other from all the outside things we do, not just our shared experiences.
Don’t worry, Yukon! Bumble will be back before you know it! Eat your pizza and hang out with the satyrs!
Reading books in the bedroom, with someone you love–either separately, with separate books, or together with the same book is a wonderful strange feeling of being together and being in completely different worlds or sharing a world and leaving this one behind. You can be engrossed, fascinated, spellbound by a book, and it can also shield you from the outside world for awhile. We probably all learned that as kids.
“Yukon and Bumble Reading in Bed” is an acrylic painting I painted in April or May of 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. It was one of the last big paintings I painted for several years (certainly the last I would complete –at that time–in the unfinished Yukon Cornelius set). My goal for the original set of Yukon paintings had been 10 acrylic paintings, sized 36″ x 48″! But here I am, switching to one slightly smaller at 24″ x 36″—on my way, in late 2020 and early 2021, to the tiny 4″ x 5″ postcards I used when I created my fairy garden. There was just no room for big grand things in a house you are sharing with two others, no money for resupplying paints, but also, suddenly, in a world that seemed to be chaotic, our immediate worlds got smaller, more confined. I felt the need to go very small…and the need to complete something in a day. I needed to be pulled in to a fairy garden. Like one is pulled into a book.
Gardens are not so different than books—both are curated spaces, carefully cultivated, designed even, to produce feelings in someone, to create moments. Both pull the viewer/reader in, engross them, fascinate them, and keep out the outside world–through boundaries, rules, thematic arrangements for aesthetic reasons. Books talk about events, people, things and are similar to the real world but in different configurations–fictions; gardens have plants and flowers in different configurations than you’d see in the real world, while keeping the wildness outside the garden. They too are fictions.
Perhaps then, reading is a garden we create in our minds to keep out the wild world. The anagram of “reading” are the words “I, Garden” (or iGarden, if you’re Apple!). We get lost in the carefully planned garden of a book, forgetting what lies outside around us, and we are happy to stay there safe within HUGE walls of dramatic plot and cool characters that block out the rest of the world.
Look at Bumble in that painting. He is HUGE, probably 14 feet or more. As you’ve probably noticed in my paintings of Yukon and Bumble, there is no consistency of size for Bumble. I say Bumble is 10 feet to Yukon’s 6 feet… but the Snowmonster’s body seems to change size with every picture. However, the Bumble from the Star Wars cosplay painting is about 10 feet. And sometimes, in other paintings, it looks like he’s just 8 feet tall; his size changes to the needs of my painting and the scene I’m trying to convey. Just like my paintings moved from very, very large to very, very small to reflect my move from giant, loud, bold feelings to the collapsed, tighter, confined spaces of a small fairy garden in a pandemic–Bumble here reflects my need for peace and safety. He grew like a wall.
There’s a shift in this painting from the others. All my first paintings of Yukon have him Encountering the Wild, his arms thrown back in wonder and surprise at these amazing “monsters”–a werewolf, a sea dragon, moth men, the Loveland Frogs, or the boisterous Eagle Bar on stage singing with Bumble! They are loud! Dramatic! But here–at the beginning of the pandemic– is a different visual theme, away from large encounters and wonder—to the bedroom—into the arms of Bumble–to reading quietly–to a soft lit room that seems to be presented from multiple perspectives at once, as if the edges are still touching chaos but the center is safe… we are confined (look at Bumble’s hands almost locking Yukon in place) but protected, in this welcome, warm, loving, plush space of peace.
In 2020, I needed to be in Bumble’s arms, reading a book in peace. So Bumble was the size I needed him to be– large enough to be a wall, to surround Yukon with his arms, and let him escape the world. Reading can be an act of preservation, of protection. Reading to each other is a heroic act— like the Fellowship of the Ring resting in Rivendell, Mole and Rat at Badger’s House, Mary Lennox in her Secret Garden, Enola Holmes at her brother Sherlock’s house, the House Madrigal…oh look, you came with me to these places. We are there together. Safe for awhile.
I had best hits of the 80s playing when I drew this (“I was dreaming when i wrote this…”) so I was singing hard in my studio… and I pray everyone else in adjoining studios was okay with that! But I know the lyrics to hundreds of 80s songs… embedded in my core memory forever. Not useless data. Valuable data. Shared experience data. You know old folks homes for Gen Xers are gonna be filled with the best music. Nobody will come in there on weekends to play “a bicycle built for two”–they’ll bring in a cover band and play Journey, “Someday love will find you, BREAK those chains that BIND you!” And all us old Xers will be rockin’ out and singing along.
Do you sing in the bedroom? If you have a partner, do they sing in the bedroom? Do you sing together in the bedroom sometimes? (I count the shower as the bedroom in some houses!) Then do you bust up laughing because it’s so wonderful and funny? 70’s-80s songs, Broadway, Disney and church hymns…. that’s my on-call repertoire. Some Irish ballads… folk songs… and okay, Dan Fogelberg and the Beatles can be pulled up when necessary. Currently, songs from Nathaniel Rateliff, Rag & Bone Man, Taylor Swift, and Adele run through my head–because they got me through the pandemic by dropping albums into our difficult times like rocks into a still lake. (And now—Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ “Unholy” is so damn catchy, I’ve been playing that over and over while I work on the big King O the Cats painting) Anyway! When I have had someone who likes to sing, it’s fun to sing with them. (Some cute guy I know enjoys singing in the car! And it’s nice to blend with him down the curvy road.)
Where do songs come from inside us? Are they stored with feelings? I don’t think they are in a bin called “music” in our brain because if someone asked me what I know by heart I couldn’t tell you… that file is empty… but let me have a feeling, and wow, I get songs with lyrics that match that feeling flood my brain. If I hear three notes outside from a windchime–I can sing a whole song in full. Or turn on the car radio and all my notes are there.
There are songs appropriate for every feeling we’ve felt and I thank musicians for cataloguing those experiences and feelings so well. When I have to clean, I turn on the music to get me happy enough not to mind the cleaning. When I am sad, I turn on music to purge the sadness, to reflect in it, to bleed it out. Music puts us on a collective train of a feeling–and the lyrics and our lives merge in the windows of the shared landscape passing by. By the end of the song, we know the singer has “felt” our experience, and we theirs, our shared music of the moment
In the bedroom, we have a chance for many duets. Yeah, our voices aren’t perfect all the time. (But I bet opera baritone Bryn Terfel’s morning voice can be froggy hilarious too!) But I love my partner’s voice. I love singing with him. I love laughing about how we know all the lyrics, or- or- or- or… stay with me… how I memorized the lyrics ALL wrong… and those can be really funny too. Music allows us to share feelings– in a way like no other. We are full-throated blasting the Joy of our “Summer of 69” or we are harmonizing and synching in the sadness of our “Mercy Street” together. It puts us, for a moment, on the same page as our partner. And they know, even when they can’t express their feelings in words yet, that yeah, we “feel” their music too.
That’s the Black Dog of Death coming to visit Yukon and Bumble, sleeping on the big bed, being kept awake by Bumble’s snoring.
We sleep and recharge in the bedroom–it’s a long period of vulnerability, where our guard is down. We are open for any attack, naked to any sudden thing that could change–and yet we have to be vulnerable somewhere. We have to rest. We have to stop and get sleep.
I lock the door to my apartment, and I close the door to my room. I can’t have my room door open while I’m sleeping. I’m always afraid I will be able to feel the presence of someone standing in that door, looking at me. Last night, when the heater came on in the apartment, it opened the door of the room (the latch doesn’t always catch) and I said, “No, no, no,” and got up and shut the door.
I used to be afraid of the dark when I was a kid. Many many nights I spent under the covers pressing down on them to stop any monster from getting in until, lacking oxygen, I gave up and pulled back the covers and, because of how cool and refreshing it felt coming out from under those airless covers, I fell asleep right away–allowing myself to be vulnerable.
Some of us are more comfortable being vulnerable in less safe situations— camping (where we zip up the tent tight against bugs and bears….), or sleeping outside with no tent! (Are you THINKING??). Some people fall asleep in public places feeling safe because there are so many people they have a better chance of not being attacked. Some people have to fall asleep outside or in public places because they have no home, no bed, no safety, and they are vulnerable every single time.
Some of us feel like we have a private place in our bedrooms, safe from the judgement of others, able to be vulnerable in a way we could never be with other people. We can open up and be ourselves. For many, it takes a LOT to invite someone into that vulnerability–a lot of strength and a lot of time–to know that we are safe with them. On the other hand, sometimes it takes only a second to realize when we are not safe with someone–revealing ourselves or revealing our vulnerable sides or even being physically safe with them.
We are very blessed when we find someone who can handle our snoring worst, our naked, vulnerable self, our fears, insecurities, and our imperfections–and we are blessed with so much trust when someone invites us into that place where they are vulnerable too. A good relationship is constant vulnerability with constant safety. I’ve heard it’s a sign of feeling safe when dogs and cats sleep in our presence… they feel safe with us. When a person can voluntarily sleep in your presence, what an amazing trust they’ve given you, handing you their vulnerability and closing their eyes.
Do you watch movies in the bedroom too? Or series TV? Joey and I got hooked on Severance! And then Resident Alien, then Andor, House of the Dragon, etc. I wonder what you think they might be watching. I love being cozy and watching stories with someone you love. I also love buying a pizza, having choc pudding ready, and watching a show on my own! (I don’t eat pizza in the bed though… not a good place for pizza…. )
This part of “The Further (Queer) Adventures of Yukon Cornelius” is a small series with essays talking about “The Bedroom is our Living Room.” Yukon and Bumble had to swap the bedroom and living room because Bumble needed the extra room, but it got me to thinking about what kinds of “living” we do in our bedrooms. How can our bedrooms be our “living” rooms. What kinds of things besides the obvious do you do in your bedrooms?
If we hadn’t been raising three orphaned chupacabras at our house, I wouldn’t have gotten so involved in the investigations happening in our area regarding cattle deaths and mutilations. I knew though that the authorities would eventually come here, looking around. I sat down with the “kids” and asked them hard questions. “Is everyone here sticking to eating just the magical goats the Babas created for you?” They all nodded. The three of them were about the size of ten- year-old human children, but with fangs and spine ridges and big round eyes on either side of their heads and a forked tongue. Dylan, Aidan and Aerosol (she chose the name, honestly) sat on their handmade stools in front of Bumble and me. Dylan had his goat in his arms, and he was petting it gently. They named their goats too, the ones that could be killed and resurrected easily if I just planted a seed in the ground next to the three holes in the backyard we kept reusing for the nightly carcasses. “Don’t forget to plant the seed. That will bring the goats back to life in the morning,” the Babas told me. I had told them not to let the goats too far out of their sights, or they might go hungry. I didn’t know where the Babas were right now and I couldn’t create a new magical goat. “And the goats are enough for you every day, right? You’re not snacking on something else too?” They shook their heads. Aerosol said, “I love the taste of Angelfire. She’s all I need.” Okay. The other two nodded as well. Aidan called Skippy into the room to show me how much he enjoyed sucking blood from Skippy the resurrectable goat. “No, no, no,” I said, “you don’t have to prove it to me. I believe you.” The blood that the goats produced did not come out of the carpet, so we limited their eating to outside in the yard. Bumble and I had been eating our dinners out there with them as a family. We’d been doing this for about three months, ever since the Babas came back with three chupacabras in their arms, wrapped in blankets and sucking on bottles of goat’s blood, telling us. “We found them near death. So, of course, we brought them here to you.”
We tried to always make sure one of us was here with them, but when we couldn’t the Babas babysat, and the Monster Under the Bed took shifts as well, taking them into his lair under the bed, which was a lot roomier than I imagined and playing Gotcha Games with them.
I went to the local town meetings where folks talked about the cattle mutilations and deaths. I couldn’t make out which were rumors and which were actual sightings, but they included black helicopters, UFOs, chupacabras, and black hooded cult members. Chupas often got blamed for the deaths of cattle and goats. Granted a chupacabra might eat ONE, but they were loners by nature and killing fifteen or fifty cattle at a time—that wasn’t a chupa. I listened for what evidence they had. Frankly, when it was all finished—even after the government sponsored scientists told us what they suspected—natural causes, some sort of disease—I couldn’t tell what was real and what wasn’t. “Surgically removed the testicles of all my bulls? That’s natural causes? Why—it was a clean cut, better than Dr. Homer ever did to my steers,” someone said giving shade to the veterinarian in the room. “You never hold them still enough,” he murmured. I came away from the meeting knowing two things: the whole town, our neighbors, were on alert for weird happenings and watchful on their property, and two, they would believe anything at all—with just a little evidence.
“They have government investigators going farm by farm,” I told Bumble. He said, <We are not a farm.> I knew that, I said, but they were being thorough and would probably want a statement. “I tried to give my statement at the meeting, but they weren’t taking them.” I worried that the investigators would come on a day when the Babas’ house slunk back into the yard, or that the chupas would be playing soccer in the yard. Or that Bumble would be doing anything at all. <People know about me,> he said. “Yes, but these kinds of things have a way of making people change their mind about people they know. Give them enough reason to think you’re responsible for a natural disaster or other unexplained event and they’ll agree you were a shifty critter all along.” I wasn’t even thinking about ANYTHING else coming into the yard or by my house while they were here. That could happen. What if the Boogeyman showed up for tea? Oh god, what if Penny came back now, six years later, flying right over their heads, just to say hello? I can’t turn my inner beacon off.
Bumble put a blanket over my head. I said, “It doesn’t dampen my signal to all the Hiddens, Bumble.” I took the blanket off my head. He said, <No, but it hides you from the investigators and maybe it will comfort you a little. It’s a comforter.>
I laughed, “Who will meet them at the door?” He touched his chest. No, I told him. I couldn’t take the risk that he would be misinterpreted. “I appreciate that, babe. But they might not have an interpreter. We can’t take that chance that they see a ten-foot Yeti waving his arms at them and growling.” He rolled his eyes. He could dress up as Chewbacca. I squinted… hmmm. “Let me think on that.” Meanwhile, the plan was for me to speak to them alone and everyone else hide.
Too often for my liking, Hiddens were blamed for things that humans did or things that naturally occurred. How many times had I heard that Hurricane Elmo, or whatever, was brought on by “the unnatural people living in our midst”? Or some people die mysteriously and no one can come up with a good government conspiracy? They have to start talking about how Mr. or Miss Hidden came into the neighborhood about that time and there went the neighborhood! People will fall back on their prejudices in hard times. It’s one of our worst traits. And dead cattle? That was such a Chupa signature in the mythology they’d created. It’d be like if Harold liked ice cream and someone stole a truckload of ice cream—oh, it must be Harold!
The chupas killed their goats at dinner, Aidan slurping so loudly I thought the farmers hiding in the bushes three miles away could hear him. We always made a fire. We always sang silly songs that we made up. Tonight it was about Santa’s sleigh being led by magical goats. I brought out the guitar and set it to music as we were creating it. I knew that the kids would have to go back out into the world when they were adults—in about five months. I would miss them. I wondered what kind of a world I was sending them out into.
Three inspectors came to the house in a couple of black vans nine days later. I’d told the kids that since the goats made goat sounds we needed them to be easily seen, and we would watch them. The Monster Under the Bed took the chupas down into his place. I met the inspectors in the front yard. I introduced myself. Immediately, I told them, “My partner lives with me and he’s a yeti, and he doesn’t speak, but he does sign.” They stopped talking. “I’m telling you this because my partner is going to come out of the house in a moment. He’s ten feet tall and is not a threat to you.” Bumble and I decided that he was probably known enough in the area for his absence to look suspicious, and we wanted to come out to meet them as a couple. “Mr. Redeker,” the lead inspector looked at me. I said, “Call me Yukon.” He saw the three goats playing in the yard. “Oh they’re adorable. Pets?” I nodded. “I love little goats. Did you name them?” he asked. I introduced him to Angelfire, Skippy, and… Lunch. He didn’t laugh so I tried to laugh a little harder. He asked if we had seen anything suspicious. “What would be suspicious? A group of people in a couple of black vans going from farm to farm stealing vital organs from cattle?” He stared at me. “Or do you mean something else?” We had them out on the back deck. I didn’t want them in the house. “We just waxed the floors.” Bumble had acted out Slippery for them. “Did you see other black vans?” he asked. I shook my head. I said, “I just wanted to know what suspicious would be? I’m very far from anyone’s farm, so I didn’t see what might be happening.” He pointed behind the house. “But the roads all connect. Did you see any suspicious vehicles–?” He placed a pen ready on the notebook he carried, “…people… creatures?” He didn’t have to look at Bumble for me to know he was thinking of looking at Bumble.
“If I had anything I could add to aid your search, I would,” I said. He smiled, “People have stories about you and this area. They say there’s a lot of activity here. You work with Hiddens, don’t you?” I nodded. “Yes, I work with them.” He nodded too. “And have any of them looked suspicious to you?” He really believed someone I knew was involved because… of course. That would be nice and simple for him. Everyone would believe some Monster did it. Did I hear what happened in Russia? With that fire burning a town and then the forest coming back? What if that happened here? “Can we trust them? In your opinion. I mean, you work with them,” he said.
I told him, “I think you should work with them too. I think your suspicions would go away. Yeah, you should have a Hidden on your team. I bet they have ideas you haven’t even considered. Maybe they have some thoughts.” I turned to Bumble and asked, “Do you have any thoughts on what might be happening?” Bumble said, <He is a dickhead.> I said to the inspector, “He doesn’t know, but he hopes that you find out how it is happening.” The inspector looked at Bumble, “You’re a big one. What do you eat, I wonder?” Bumble signed, <Inspectors.> I said, “He is really fond of banana bread, actually.” The inspector looked at me, “Does he like beef?” I said to the inspector, “Tell me, Inspector, did any of those cattle actually have meat taken from them—or was it just balls and intestines and other organs? Did it look like anyone got a good fat juicy steak off them?” He said no. I looked at Bumble, “He likes his steaks grilled and we get them from the grocery store.” Bumble signed, <I could make an exception and eat him now.>
“Tell me, Yukon, have you ever met a bad Hidden? An evil Hidden?” I looked at him, “I’ll tell you if you tell me first if you’ve ever met a bad person or an evil person.” He didn’t answer. “I bet you have. I bet you don’t arrest every person just because you met a bad one once.”
He stood up. His men stood up. “Well it was nice meeting you, Yukon, and Mr. Bumble. If you hear of anything or see anything that seems out of whack–,” he gave me his card, “give us a ring. We want to get to the bottom of this Cattle Mutilation thing. Someone, or something, needs to be brought to justice.” We walked them back to their black vans. I said, “Good luck,” and Bumble signed <I see something out of whack.> The inspector waved back to both of us and they left.
I breathed a sigh of relief until I caught Bumble’s eye. <Where are the goats?> I looked around and realized neither of us had been watching them. It was getting late in the day too. The kids would be hungry. I called out for the goats. Bumble quickly ran around the outside of the house. No goats. I called inside the house. No goats. The kids came out. “You lost the goats?” I told them they wandered off. We needed their help to find them. But don’t go too far. I couldn’t risk a farmer seeing them. They called for their goats. The kids had never been off our property, or even known where the boundaries were. That seemed now like an oversight. What would magical goats do if they were found by other people? Would they just act like regular goats until something killed them? I told Bumble we needed our friends in the forest to help us find the goats, so he went down to the forest. I told the kids that we needed them to stay close to the house and that we would look for the goats.
But the goats would not be found. Not even our friends in the forest could find them. Hours passed. No goats. Kids hungry. Three teenage Chupacabra biting their lips, needing blood to drink, preferably from cattle or goats. “Anywhere we could go buy some small goats?” they asked. I didn’t know. It was getting dark. “Gang,” I said to them, “This is going to be a rough night. But I need you to stay strong and stay in the house.” They got dressed for bed. I tried to give them the blood from some cold pork and a steak… they didn’t like the taste. I wasn’t sure if it was really safe for them to drink anyway. Bumble and I decided not to eat dinner either. We wanted to show them we could get through it together. I told Bumble that if the goats had gotten killed somewhere, then I should plant a seed and maybe they would come back in the morning. <We don’t have their bodies.> I told him we would call out in the morning and see if they answered. I planted the seed. Bumble told me when I came to bed that I was glowing. I looked in the mirror and couldn’t see anything. Bumble said he could see it. And feel it. In fact, it kept him up the whole night. I slept. He didn’t much.
In the morning I found Bumble asleep on the floor with headphones on. <They helped.> We both immediately went outside and called for the goats. Nothing. I told the kids to stay in the house and Bumble and I would go recruit our friends again and call around in the area. I didn’t even have a chance to get very dressed. I knew if they didn’t feed soon, we would have a big problem on our hands. I called for what seemed like hours.
It is such a precarious balance Hiddens have in the world—if things are going well in the place they live, they are fine. But economic downturns, riots, natural disasters, even basic dissatisfaction could bounce back on them. And a death, or an assault from a mysterious source? Hiddens always felt like they were one mistake from being hated again, of people being frightened of them. The Inspector proved that the thought isn’t far from their minds.
I heard a big whoosh above me, and there was a full-grown gold dragon flying above me. It was Penny. She swooped and turned on a dime and landed beside me in a windburst. I laughed—and I needed that laugh—“You are enormous!” I yelled. Her voice boomed back, “Thank you! I feel great!” She brought her head down to my level. With her chin on the ground, I only stood as high as her nose. “What’s up? You are sending out waves of distress.” I was? “Some goats have gone missing,” I said. “We have to find them so that three Hiddens can eat, but–,” I held up my hand, “there’s a catch. Everyone in the neighborhood is freaked out about some cattle killings in the area and so they are looking for a Hidden to blame. If you fly and they see you, they will think it was you who did the killing. So we have to find the goats without attracting any attention.”
She lifted her head, “I think I hear a little chaos.” Oh, that’s awesome! I thought, assuming the chaos was goats. “At your house.” She immediately lifted off. “No, no, Penny. They’ll see you.” She called back, “I hope they do.” I was running just to keep up with her
I came up from the forest to where I could see the house. So many cars and trucks—I could count seven of them. I started running to the house across the meadow. “Wait!” I said.
I was out of breath, and running as fast as I could. I couldn’t yell. I was about fall down when I felt three sets of hands catch me. I looked up and saw my friends, the satyrs. I couldn’t say anything. “We got your signal,” they said. “We knew you were in trouble.” I saw behind me Sabitha, the Baba’s house on cat legs, spring over the edge of the forest and keep running past us to the house. I stood up and started running again.
By the time I got to the house, I recognized faces in the crowd. Oh no. My worst nightmare. An angry crowd of villagers. I think in the back of my mind for years this scene was playing with no sound…just images of villagers with pitchforks advancing on the Frankenstein of the Day to rid themselves of the Strange One in their Midst.
Seeing a house on cat legs, a flying dragon and several satyrs coming at them had sent the townspeople to yelling and backing up. “Wait! Wait!” I called out, huffing and puffing. When I got there, I doubled over. I couldn’t speak. But they quieted down.
“Yukon,” someone said. “We’ve all come to see you.” The townspeople were speaking and oddly everyone was waiting for me to lift my head. I sat down on the grass and looked up. I recognized each family. I knew my neighbors—I had met many of them. I was ready for their Rumors and their Threats. Terry, one of the cattle farmers in the area—the one who had lost the most—came towards me, knelt down. “We wanted to make sure you and yours were okay,” he said.
I was still breathing hard, “What?”
Jeannie, his wife, looking around her at all the Hiddens. “We knew they’d come out here to say something to you and we figured you might be in trouble.” Another man said, “We tried to tell them that we’d never had any trouble with any of your visitors or friends out here and that you were a good family in the area. But I knew they wouldn’t listen.” Terry reached out his hand to help me up and I took it.
“You came out here to check on us?” I asked. They nodded. Terry said, “Now this don’t mean that we haven’t ruled out some creature we don’t know attacking the cattle—but we don’t think it’s associated with you.” I felt like I was in a dream or fantasy. Some of them looked up as Penny landed in the yard. Sabitha curled her feet under her and the house sat down. They were here to help. “I appreciate all of you,” I said, trying to not sound as dumbfounded as I felt.
“We thought maybe you might know what was happening, though.” They nodded again. I shook my head. “I don’t have a clue what may be happening to your cattle, but I know it’s not any of us or anything I’ve ever heard of. Not that many cattle in this short of time.” I remembered the kids. “We are looking for some stray goats though. They won’t hurt you. They are slightly magical but you wouldn’t know it by looking at them.”
“Well, Hell,” someone called from the back. “Three goats?” It was Dan Thomas. He and his family raised goats too. “They tried to get into our pen last night with the other goats and fried themselves on the electric fence. They were dead. But the damnedest thing happened. They came back to life this morning! I said to Margie ‘Those are Demon Goats.’ She said, ‘No, they’re probably from the red-bearded guy up on Alderwood Lane.’ She heard about you from her church group. She said, ‘Demon Goats wouldn’t be that dumb.’ These were just plain old magical goats, she figured. They got right into an old pet carrier we had for Rufus before he passed. We have them in the truck.”
I was elated. Dan and Margie went to go get the goats. Someone asked, hopefully, as if they had done their homework on cryptids just to talk to me, “Do you think it could be a pack of Chupacabras?”
“It most definitely is not the work of a Chupacabra,” I said, and I took this time to educate them on chupas. I told them they don’t hunt in packs. They are loners. And they can only drink the blood of one cow at a time. “That pretty much fills them up. Fifty dead cows would be a waste of food for them… they’d never do it.” Someone started a sentence with, “Well, I heard,” and then recited a fake factoid about chupacabras they found on the internet. I let them say it, let everyone hear it, and then I corrected it. That’s what you have to do about false information. I don’t tell them to shut up, or call them names, or laugh at them, or embarrass them for what they don’t know. “You’ve never met a Chupacabra so you wouldn’t know the difference. They are very nice if you ever get to meet them.”
“I guess this is as good of an introduction as we might ever get,” said a voice behind me. “We are very nice and today you do get to meet chupacabras.” From the Babas’ house two adult chupacabras walked out the door and onto the deck. They wore bright colored shirts and jeans. They looked at me. “Thank you, Yukon, for the kind words you said about us. We came when we heard that you were taking care of three orphans.”
Someone in the crowd said, “Three orphans?” and looked at me with surprise and several others did the same. Their eyes got even softer when they thought of me as a father.
Baba Sola said to me, “That’s what we were doing? Looking for someone for the kids.”
“We hoped they might want to talk about coming back with us,” the chupacabra couple said.
I introduced them (Myrrha and Aliso) to all my neighbors! They all said hello and the conversations started and kept going and all I could do was step back and watch. Dan and Margie came back with the goats, which I gave to Bumble to take into the house. I told him to put down the old plastic swimming pool on the kitchen floor, try to keep the mess contained. He nodded. Terry said, “See it all worked out.” He winked at me. “Did you think we were coming for all the Hiddens you had so we could burn them at the stake?” I laughed, “Of course not. I wouldn’t believe that.” I slapped him on the back and went inside to grab a shirt.
It’s amazing how everyone, even me, can believe what they want to about their own Monsters. I had believed the worst of all of them even from the beginning, and here they were, laughing, talking with chupacabras, magical old ladies, a chatty dragon, and someone was petting the legs of Sabitha—why did I think that just because people in the past had acted out of fear that these people would do that? We may never solve the cattle deaths (though I would ask Penny to go on patrol if she would) but I learned something about my “monsters,” and it was a good lesson. I also had so many friends I could count on—magical Hiddens and friendly neighbors. Just when I needed them, they came.
The Babas had come out of their house with baked goods and drinks and carried them to the deck. I brought out my guitar knowing we could make up some good silly songs tonight. Looking around at all my friends I felt a bit more confident about the world I was sending the young chupacabras into—a world with more friends than I thought. The happy crowd talked so loud that no one heard the happy howls of joy as the kids called out– Angelfire! Skippy! Lunch!—hugged the necks of their three long-lost, beloved, resurrectable goats—we missed you!—and then, with glee, sucked out every drop of life they could, knowing there’d be so much more tomorrow.
Bumble does not live in my time zone even when he is in bed with me. This makes setting times very difficult in our home. Not only can he be as much as three hours different than I am, but he might be exactly in synch with me and I wouldn’t know. His times are fluid, moving with the patterns of sunlight and darkness. I tried to teach him about time zones using a globe pointing out the clever 24 time zones that used longitude to separate them equally. He got that, <very clever,> but he pointed to the North and South ends of the globe and shook his head. He asked, <Why aren’t there latitudinal time zones as well? Far north sunlight doesn’t follow the silly time zones “human society” created. More sun in the north in summer; much less sun in winter—sometimes no sun in the winter.> He tells me I should know that. I grew up there. I say that I am matching the rhythm of the people around me—that’s what time zones are for—to help us stay together. He shakes his head. He believes time zones were created to accommodate people living in temperate zones within one thin band around the world, not even those on either side of those zones. Why should he change his whole life and rhythm to merge in with something humans created—and created badly? It only meets the needs of only a small portion of the humans on the earth. So I keep track of his patterns in a notebook called Bumble Time, like one would watch the weather, noting times and changes, patterns that alter—trying to keep us at least partially in rhythm together. I tell him, “So the days won’t get away from us.” Daylight Savings always throws us out of whack. He signs to me, <You cannot use the daylight you are saving.> He smiles, picks up a cupcake, eats it. <You are saving the wrong things>
At his current work site across the state, he paints a mural in the heart of the older part of a downtown now mostly abandoned during the last big economic slump, they told him. The shops were all boarded up, except for Payday Lending places, phone outlets, and the occasional fast food restaurant. But people were still here. They lived and grew up here. Their homes were in this neighborhood. They no longer had a grocery close by, but they had a lot of old buildings just sitting around unused. The neighborhood hired him, contacting him through his website. Anyone can contact him and propose a place to put a mural—but he doesn’t have to take the work. He can choose. Bumble likes to take places, like this one, that need some bright color, where he can make people happy. His price is always on a sliding scale. This one will not bring in much money. <But the next one will,> he tells me. <It all works out.> It’s true. Some of his murals are inside big office buildings, restaurants, art museums, private homes. He has collectors. He brings in some very big money, most of which he gives away to environmental causes. He takes jobs where he can be himself, and which are safe for him, and where he can stand comfortably. He is close to 10 feet tall now—that limits some indoor spaces. He researches the site, makes sure they are ‘monster-friendly’ and that he can work in peace, and that they have a sign language interpreter on call. When he first started doing them, he drew crowds. “Well,” I told him, “you are–.” He finished, <Different.> “New,” I said. I thought it couldn’t hurt his marketing for people to post pictures of him working or take selfies. <It is difficult to think. I distract them from the Art I’m trying to make.> He didn’t mind drawing crowds in neighborhoods, but he didn’t like being gawked at in offices. <I feel too big—in the way of myself.>
He lets me watch today, as he is finishing up this one. He calls it, “Dreaming of Escape.” Many of his murals have Hiddens in them. <It helps Hiddens if they have good art about them in public spaces.> He said it got people used to them and helped put them in context. In Trenton there is a mural over three stories tall of dancing Jersey Devils and it is warm and inviting and make people smile. He was invited to the Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant WV to create a permanent mural. It was controversial at first. It depicted several Moth Men interacting with townspeople in the downtown area, drinking coffee, walking down the street, real hometown kind of Norman Rockwell stuff, done in a hybrid Rockwell/ Bumble’s ‘Northern style’. It wasn’t the scary Moth Man they wanted. It was friendly. It didn’t match any of their marketing. He told them, <If you want a Moth Man to come live here you need to show him he will be accepted and welcome.> They didn’t know they had that option—to get their own Moth Man again! So they changed every bit of marketing to follow Bumble’s lead. They now have a very active and inquisitive Moth Family living near them.
I see the hot orange sky, the ice breaking up, the black continent Earth from the Northern perspective. <People aren’t watching this clock very well,> he tells me. <The land is telling them that time is running out to change bad habits, but they won’t see the clock.> He shakes his head. <Out of time.> He points to different places of his mural, and tells me about it. <They are escaping the hot land. The Tern drops its eggs when it has to leave. The fox jumps into the water. The Bumble tries to balance on ice flows.> “And these stars that are falling?” I ask. He smiles. <Those are people. They opened a box here. And now they are all falling into the box here.> When I ask him what the box was, he says, <Everything they wanted.> Now the box just collected their bodies, I guessed. <People need a new Climate Time Zone national campaign that has a day that gets smaller every year. Less time to work. Less time to play. Less time to change. No 24 hour day but a 12 hour day, maybe. Short time. Shorter time. Shortest time. Then no time.>
I look around me at the people who are watching. He signs to me, <They get it from the pictures. They know. They have been in Climate Time Zone for awhile. They are part of the clock now. Others with money and power—they don’t know they’ve been in the Climate Time Zone too. The effects don’t reach them for awhile.> He looks at the people, and the neighborhood. <The clock is all around us. The trees are the clock. The ice is the clock. These people are the clock to watch too. No one is watching the clock. This is the time to be saved.> He looked again at the people. <No one is saving this Time.>
Later, as sunset comes, the crowd brings several long tables and chairs and covers the tables in food to share. Everyone sits down together. They come to Bumble and me. “We want to thank you for making our neighborhood more colorful.” Bumble shows his surprise, and then spots a table full of banana bread. He points at it and roars, laughing. He signs <You know me too well. How can I say no?> I tell them what he’s said. They smile and clap and lay a big blanket over the concrete for him to sit on. He signs to me, <Time to eat and play—> sits down and children come to him bearing plates of food. They lay them down around him, almost interconnecting on the blanket. He thanks them, smiles big and stuffs his face. He turns to me, barbecue sauce on the fur under his nose, takes my hand and pulls me to the blanket to sit beside him, and signs <Eat and play, before the day gets away.>