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I get dressed and go out and suffer school and don't even think about how I look until I catch my reflection in the window as I walk up to work. I rediscover the fact that I'm an actual hippo. I am blotchy and haggard, I am scowling and didn't know it. I have made an unfortunate choice of shirts, striped, a terrible idea. It's like one of those diagrams of a pig, to show the different cuts of meat: I'm an instructional poster of my hammiest parts.

I walk in and Julian's there, though he isn't supposed to be, according to the schedule I've already memorized. Something in me jumps and sinks at the same time. I like to look at him but I dread him looking at me.

The first thing he says to me is, "You must like chocolate, right?" and I think, oh my god, he's having fun, he's cruel after all, and then I see he's smiling like sunshine and holding out a tray of candy to me, a girl who does like chocolate but doesn't like to admit it to men, boys, whatever they are. I see he has given me an opportunity to be uncomplicated and I take it. He grins. It's sweet.

He apologizes for it being leftovers - candy he bought on sale after Valentine's Day. I ask how much it cost, he tells me, and we do a bunch of math and figure out how much it cost per piece, and dare each other to eat a dollar's worth, but no way, I haven't lost my mind here.

He offers chocolate to the other girls who work in the coffeeshop; they giggle and won't eat it. Today I do not envy their thighs.

On the way home I get off the bus a stop early so I can duck into the drugstore, hoping. I succeed in finding a box of retarded elementary school-style Valentines, beat-up, one of the last. I don't know yet whether I'll use them. But if Julian does turn out to be dino-riffic, I will have the right way to let him know.

I've got a book deal!

Creative Guy Publishing, which has put out books such as Happy Woman Magazine's satire anthology Random Acts of Malice, has agreed to publish a small softcover collection of my geek humor. More to the point, it will include How to install Linux on a dead badger and Your corporate network and the forces of darkness and sundry other silly stuff that hasn't made it to E2 yet.

It will be illustrated by DE Christman, and we're hoping to have it out by the end of 2006.

So, big thanks go out to all the Everythingians who provided helpful feedback on the original dead badger piece and encouraged me on the road to ridiculousness. Particular thanks go out to Jet-Poop, quizro and czeano.

Some of you know that this will be my second book deal. The first, for a novel that has thus far gone unfinished, died a sudden and unseemly death when the publishing company abruptly got blasted out of the water by its parent corporation. I had a signed contract and an advance and everything, but no matter: no book. Ah well. These things happen. My husband went through a far more frustrating experience when one of his books was printed and all ready to go but due to sudden publisher insolvency languished in a warehouse for the better part of a year instead of actually making it to market.

So, I of all people am well aware that the only way you're sure you're going to have a book is when you find it on the shelf at Barnes and Noble. But I have a good feeling about this. CGP is small but focused, and the books they've been putting out have been getting better and better.

I'm excited about this. Ridiculously excited. It feels like all the misalignments in my life of the past four years are finally straightening out.

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