My Pets’ Pets

Things that were sad: we said good bye to Cherry this week, at age 15. She died peacefully at home (thanks to a veterinarian who specializes in both end-of-life pet care and house calls), surrounded by some of her people and Captain, her companion of 9 years. I will write a longer post about her soon. In the meantime, enjoy this story about pests.

What I saw: I have graduated to a walking cast, but when I was still on the knee scooter, I had trouble by the back door. Turning around was a process of bashing into walls, running over shoes, inventing new cuss words, and trying not to fall. As long as the weather stayed unseasonably warm (thank you, catastrophic global climate change), my solution was to open the door and leave it open for Captain. I have taught Captain he is not supposed to charge out an open door, and he has learned to wait, even if there are squirrels; so, he stands, sometimes trembling with anticipation, and waits for permission to go.

Things that were funny: by leaving the door open for him, Captain just stood in front of it wagging and asking to go out. He needed to be told it was ok. I was in the kitchen trying to do ordinary things, like unloading the dishwasher one cup at a time, spilling water, bashing into the cupboards, and trying to make tea that all take forever on a knee scooter, and there was Captain standing at the open door unable to go out.  I said something encouraging. Now he was whining. I finished unloading the dishwasher one plate at a time and went to see what was wrong. There was a big spotted slug in the doorway.

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Captain could not pass the slug without permission from me.

What I did beforehand: I had foot surgery in mid-October. I’ve been putting it off since seeing a creepy podiatrist in Seattle in 2000, but I realized as I limped around a horse show early this summer that I’d waited long enough.

What I wore: yoga pants

Who went with me: while I’ve been recovering from foot surgery, I’ve spent long days flopped out in bed, and Schwartz has been a shitty cat, not being nearly as snuggly as he should be, and finally curling up with me but not letting me actually pat him.

Why I saw this show: because of remodeling in other parts of the house, Schwartz is mostly confined to my bedroom during the day, and he has a cardboard box we put catnip in to entertain him.  He likes his box and thrashes around in it.

One thing that was not funny: one night, Schwartz brought a mouse up from the basement and put it in the box so he could play with it and it wouldn’t get away.

Another thing that was not funny: when the mouse abruptly disappeared, leaving two drops of blood behind, I assumed Schwartz had eaten it. This is a ridiculous assumption.

Still more things that were not funny: I was wrong, of course. The next night he was at it again, batting the mouse, enticing it to squeak and run and try to jump out of the box, and Schwartz was having the finest of fine times playing with it and not killing it.

Yet another thing that was not funny: the following morning I saw the mouse running around my bedroom, and I, temporarily one-footed and historically the only person in the house willing to catch and/or dispatch an injured mouse, was not able to do a damned thing about it.

Where I stood: then Schwartz showed up and recaptured the damned mouse and started for the bed with it in his mouth, I leapt to my feet, reacting from instinct, and nearly went down. Because I couldn’t put any weight on the left foot yet.

Something I watched: that night, there was a big storm and we were watching a few episodes of season 2 of Stranger Things.  We have a generator, and an expensive service contract for it, so we weren’t even worried about the power going out.

What it is: meanwhile, the Bacon Provider updated all our water treatment stuff, but the plumbers failed to install the air-gap we requested, and before the situation could be corrected, the heavy rain caused a bunch of water to back up into our basement. As a relentless troubleshooter, the Bacon Provider went out and got a sump pump to address it.

Who should see it: when the power did go out, quite late and in the middle of the episode, the generator did not fire up as it is supposed to. I found myself sitting in the living room in silence and almost complete darkness, and not sure where I’d left my knee scooter. I crawled around groping the air. The Bacon Provider went out to see if he could start the generator manually. It sputtered like it wanted to start, but couldn’t. He checked the fuel, and the oil.  It was still raining quite heavily still and the wind was so strong as to seem threatening. And now our sump pump solution was no longer a solution.

The least funny thing of all: I scootered around in the dark house, first looking for the number of the generator service company and then looking for mobile phone reception.  After the call dropped twice I got through. The tired woman who answered started off by asking my area code. I told her I didn’t have a landline and don’t know the local area code. She was indignant. I was more indignant. “I am sitting in the dark, I can hear water coming into my basement because the sump pump is off, I had foot surgery two weeks ago so I can’t walk, and you’re telling me the expensive service contract doesn’t include you being able to look up my account some other way?”

The Bacon Provider walked in, looking, by the light of his ever-handy pocket flashlight through the gloom even more alarmed, I told him, without muting myself, that I was on the phone with Sarah Huckabee Sanders (America’s grumpiest professional liar).

Eventually, after more arguing, she took my number and said we could expect a service call. My phone was down to 9% battery life, and my backup charger, when I found it, was almost dead.

I went to bed.

In the morning, I found out that the Bacon Provider had called the generator service company himself, after me, and got a call back. He was offered a technician at $480/hr with a two hour minimum in the middle of the night, or the normal day rate of $145/hour in the morning. He opted for the latter and went to bed. When they called in the morning to confirm, they told me that our service plan had lapsed two years ago. I begged to differ. They checked again, and found nothing. I insisted. On the third try they found my contract, up to date, under my correctly spelled name, at my address on my street, misspelled, and my town also misspelled.

I can’t wait until they call me in March about renewing!

What they saw when they showed up: the technician finally arrived mid-morning, and found that there was a big, spotted slug on an air vent of the generator, preventing it from starting.

I heard meowing

What I heard: that meow a cat makes when he’s in another part of the house and he’s like, “Hey, where you at?” Insistent, but not yet panicked.

 

What happened the day before: it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single-family house in possession of a goodly amount of wallpaper, must be in want of stripping. The project of updating Mrs. Gardenwinkle’s 80s museum has begun, starting with the gutting of the upstairs bathrooms. The rate of progress of re-modeling projects is chaotic at best, with stretches of steady progress, interrupted by the delays of backordered tile, or returning round drains when you wanted square, or replacing uneven concrete pads for the AC units. So in the time between small disasters our contractor assigned two workers to the non-trivial task of stripping the wallpaper from every room. They started upstairs. There was this one tool that made a screeching noise, and another that got everything wet but whatever. As they worked their way downstairs the house has been transformed, from a neat-but-dated 80s museum to just the sort of sad, shabby, destroyed ranch house that might be claimed by feral cats.

After a few days they’d stripped the upstairs hall, the stairwell, and the downstairs hall. While I was out they moved on to my bathroom and then my bedroom. I wasn’t quite ready for them, but my lack of preparation for the disruption was nothing compared to Schwartz’s. He’d been locked in our end of the house for days, and though he had food and water, his litterbox and plenty of good hiding places, he must have escaped. When I got home from the barn he was locked in my bathroom, crouched on the toilet tank, angrily overlooking a river of urine that he’d left running through the soon-to-be gutted bathroom.

What happened the next day: the next day the plumbers were working on the rough-in of the upstairs bathroom, and while they’d been very careful to keep the cat out of the basement, a drain pipe got installed in a way that prevented the upstairs bathroom door from closing. So of course they went to lunch and left the door open. A few hours later, after they’d finished and left for the day, I heard the meowing.

Who should see it: anyone who didn’t get to see enough disaster photos recently. Cat behaviorists studying the way a meow changes from normal inquiry to angry shout. Problem solvers.

What I wore: pajamas, which got splinters in them.

Where I sat: on the floor by the roughed-in pipes, with the cat screaming and reaching for me with one paw.

Things that were funny: I found the cat under the newly roughed-in bathtub, frantically thrashing and howling and unable to fit through the only opening left to him.

Things that were not funny:

How I got help: the Bacon Provider decreed that pets are useless and terrible, and among the primary obstacles to his happiness, so he was not interested in helping the cat until after he’d eaten his samosa and lamb tikka masala and chicken saag. Then I realized that a solution might include removing a newly-installed floor panel and I announced to no one in particular it would be necessary to use a power tool.

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider pretended that his involvement in the cat rescue was a great personal inconvenience. But he got to use the drill, so…<\shrug emoji>

Why I saw this show: it was love at first sight. The first time Schwartz saw the gutted bathroom he fell madly in love with it. Plain plywood floors. Exposed framing. Old pink insulation. Nooks. Crannies. Places a cat must never go. He could not resist.

Things that were sad: J.M. Barrie’s opening line of “Peter Pan” is, “All children, except one, grow up.” No cats grow up. And they persistently search for Neverland.

More things that were not funny: days later, when he returned to the upstairs, Schwartz begged to be allowed back into that bathroom.

Something I ate: we had Indian food delivered. It was very good. I might go have some more leftovers right now.

I was sick

What I saw: mostly, the cat

What I wore: pajamas for days;  shirts that I found draped on the backs of chairs; inside-out sweatshirts


What I did beforehand: welcomed my sick husband home from a business trip, where, he said, one of his colleagues showed up sick.

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Who went with me: Schwartz, who probably prefers me sick

How I got tickets: getting sick requires no tickets in advance

Why I saw this show: I think, really, that getting sick is part of the human condition

Where I sat: in bed

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Things that were sad: running out of tea; not being able to sleep; waking up too early; aches and coughing; missing normal weekend things; being visited by Team Hatred, who ran over our second “Bernie for President” sign and gave us a bit of a lawn job

Things that were funny: the dog freaking out about the thunder

Things that were not funny: the neighbors have a “Hillary for President” sign that’s been up for months and no one has stolen it or run it over.

What it is: an upper respiratory infection or perhaps the flu

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Who should see it: no one

What I saw on the way home: 

A Visit to the Vet (by Schwartz)

Typist is busy with packing this week, so I thought I’d tell you about my day. Me? I’m Schwartz. I am the cat. I learned to type using Twitter, where I have more followers than my owner. I call her Typist because in the beginning, she did all my typing.
Typist gets these ideas that I should have vaccine boosters even though I’m an indoors-only cat and only sometimes on rare occasions shoot through people’s legs to escape to the outdoors to eat grass, be creepy, and hide under the porch. Ok, once, recently, I did get a tick. Typist had to pull it out, and everything about it was really itchy from my perspective. But this shot thing was her idea, and once she gets one of these ideas I just get to go along with it like I don’t think it’s the worst thing ever, which I do.
People should keep more empty boxes around for me.

So Typist bought me a new crate for riding in the car, and started putting my food bowl next to it, and then just inside, moving it a little bit more every day until boring boring boring I had to go all the way in the crate just to eat my kibble. I was more interested in the box the crate came in than the crate itself. Typist thinks that the food-dish-moving-plan is a good system for getting me used to the thing. Sigh. Really all it meant was when I stuck my head in the crate this morning thinking I was getting breakfast, I got rudely shoved and then locked inside which was a bad mean trick and not as good as breakfast for sure.
I peed and pooped and barfed a little in the car on the incredibly long seven minute drive to the vet, but then I got bored with doing dramatic yowls about halfway there. I restarted the dramatic yowls in the waiting room just to scare the dogs generally and get the visit over with as quickly as I could.
There was a big bully dog all covered in hives having the jolliest time dragging his woman all over the room. He stuck his big stupid face right up to the bars of my crate and I hissed at him. He doesn’t even know about the big bulging belly on his woman, and won’t he be a sorry bully dog when that horrible human baby comes in a few months. No more sleeping on the sofa for Mr. Hives then! Ha, ha, ha.
There was a long-haired dachshund as well, and I get along fine with dachshunds, especially my home-dog Reggie, but this owner person wouldn’t let him off her lap what with the bully dog and the woman stumbling along behind him.

Typist tried to amuse me during the long wait by turning my crate so I could see this poor little runt of a kitten, living out his pitiful life in the adoption cage at the vet. Out here in rural Dutchess County, the local vets do a lot of the work that animal shelters do in more densely populated areas. They keep the unwanted dogs and cats right there in the lobby, where the suckers who already own pets will see them and take another one home, with any luck.

Typist wanted me to like the kitten as much as she liked the kitten, and made a huge boring fuss about the fact that he looked like a tiny version of me. Boring! 



The kitten climbed the bars and then jumped down and Typist said she wanted to name him “Gorilla.” 



Another silly woman came up and talked to Typist about the kitten and this woman asked at the front desk if she could take the kitten home. The kitten was already spoken for, so both Typist and that other woman had to be satisfied with the pictures Typist took.  The woman even asked Typist to send her the pictures. What is it with y’all and your pictures of cats? Haven’t you seen the Internet? Plenty of pictures of me there already.


When it was finally my turn to see the vet and get my shot, I didn’t want to come out of the crate. They charge Typist $2.50 “hazardous waste disposal” fees for cleaning the poop I do in the crate. The vet always comments about how big and strong I am. It’s like they’ve never seen a cat before, really.

Shots make me very tired.

A List (Because I Have Run Out of Ideas)

Schwartz and the Parking Ticket


1. There is no such thing as an idea
2. I might be wrong about number 1.
3. Words were invented by people to represent ideas.
4. Numbers were invented by people to represent quantities.
4 ½. Sometimes people mistake the symbol we use to represent a number for the actual quantity itself.
5. Not every thing I write down needs to stay on a list.
6. Cherry is getting old, and some days it’s more noticeable than others and today was one of those days.
7. Not every thing I write down in an effort to be funny turns out to be funny
8. Cats might be good at accounting but we’ll never know because who would let a cat handle their books?
9. People really liked my tweet the other day comparing Donald Trump to cat shit.
10. I lost my list of the missing stuff
11. Sometimes when I need to sing something I sing “Acres of Clams.”
12. On August 21, 2009 I watched six episodes of Hannah Montana and liked them. I think I was running a fever. The only reason I know this is because I said it on Facebook.
13. Cats remember how many kittens they have, so they probably have an idea of number.
14. I think about numbers all the time, both in the sense of numerical quantity and in the sense of the symbol for a number.
15. Whenever I see a parking ticket in the gutter in New York City, I feel sad for the person who got the ticket and doesn’t know because the ticket fell off and the fines go way up over time if you don’t pay them.
16. Sometimes I feel like writing is always going to be a struggle.
17. When I wake up really early and can’t get back to sleep I worry about things like whether I got a parking ticket that blew off my car and I don’t know it and the fines are going up right now as I lie here in the dark not sleeping and worrying about it.
18. My mom didn’t realize she was allergic to our cat until after he died and as her house got clean she started to feel better.
19. I had lots of favorite numbers as a kid, including 16, but I do not have one now. I like the number 8 for a variety of reasons but I still wouldn’t call it my favorite.
20. My friend had a cat with terrible allergies and it always struck me as kind of funny.
21. This other list said, “Find my pajamas,” and I don’t know if I ever did.
22. I don’t even have a favorite color.
23. Once I got a parking ticket on my car when it was parked in front of my own house in Seattle and I’d forgotten to put the new registration sticker on the license plate.
24. When I was a kid I was allowed to watch as much TV as I wanted and so I watched a lot of TV. I almost never watch TV now but I waste a lot of time on the Internet which you probably knew anyway.
25. This other time, I got a parking ticket on my car when it was parked in front of my own apartment building in New York and I was going in to check the mail and get the new registration sticker.
26. I am so easily distracted.
27. Once, I was house-hunting in Bedford, New York and got a parking ticket in a paid lot, and they issued the ticket about ten minutes after the time expired and the car had been there for like four hours or something so I definitely got the feeling that some police officer sat there the whole day waiting for my paid parking to expire in the town’s one public lot and the only thing he did that whole day was slap that ticket on my windshield and when I got that ticket about ten minutes after it had been written I was like, Oh, hey, guess I don’t actually wanna live here in Bedford, huh? But, maybe, in retrospect, having cops with absolutely nothing whatsoever to do is a good sign and meant that I should have come back and looked at more ranch houses. Maybe that was my error.
28. I can’t decide if cats would give parking tickets or would just piss on anything you left in a place they considered against the rules.
 29. I thought about making a list of advice for college sophomores but once I thought about it I was like, “You got this.”
30. Some lists aren’t really necessary, but they do manage to help organize one’s thoughts.

Gomzilla vs. The Captain and Schwartz

Hamster’s Note: This is a story for children and related persons who enjoy stories about cats and dogs and made up monsters. The story includes no cuss words. There are opportunities for listeners to make quiet and loud noise. Readers will find brief fighting (with consequences), but no characters are eaten or killed.

Gomzilla vs. The Captain and Schwartz

Long ago, there were the three Persons of Pewter: Peter Pewter, Petra Pewter, and Persona Pewter. They took their spaceship, the Emptaprys, to the Far Away Planet, and faced a one-eyed dragon.

The Three Persons of Pewter
The one-eyed dragon thought Peter, Petra and Persona looked very crunchy in their pewter armor, and went off to find some marshmallow trees.


But Gomzilla, who lived on the Far Away Planet, and was first cousin to a much larger, more famous and more destructive monster, noticed that no one was guarding the space ship, the Emptaprys. So, she stole it and travelled back to the Planet Earth, where two pets live. The pets are known as The Captain and Schwartz.

Both The Captain (the dog) and Schwartz (the cat) like to take naps, and that is what they were doing when the sky turned red and the spaceship Emptaprys landed nearby. Out from the spaceship lumbered tiny Gomzilla (you can make lumbering noises now).

Now, even though The Captain is a silly dog and sometimes tries to run through screen doors because he didn’t notice they weren’t open, this time he did notice Gomzilla lumbering around the house.
Sniff! Sniff!

As Gomzilla drew closer, The Captain gave her a big sniff (you can make sniffing noises now).  

The Captain likes almost everything and almost everybody, and a small monster with green scales and sharp teeth seemed annoying and a little boring, so he went to sleep without being bothered (you can make snoring noises now).

Gomzilla was surprised that The Captain didn’t want to stay and fight or run away.
But The Captain was not the only pet Gomzilla would meet that day. Gomzilla turned around and there was a fluffy, black beast!
Now, Schwartz knew he was just a cat, but Gomzilla was from a Far Away Planet where there are no cats.

Gomzilla thought Schwartz would be a better beast to sneak up on, so she began to sneak  (you can make sneaking noises now).
Sneak! Sneak!

And, fast as lightning, Schwartz was ready to fight! (If you are careful, you can make fighting noises now, but no actual fighting because you don’t want to miss the end of the story.)
Fight! Fight!

Gomzilla narrowly missed being bitten, and fell over.

She was very far from her home on the Far Away Planet, and fighting with beasts wasn’t very much fun any more. Gomzilla felt sad.

Gomzilla is sad.
Schwartz gave Gomzilla a bandage, and Gomzilla said thank you, and began to feel better.
Sometimes, you need help with a bandage.

And they decided to be friends.



The end




Cracking Eggs

I once attended a private school teachers’ conference where the keynote speaker posited that private school students might be like eagle eggs, requiring only a warm bottom to hatch out exemplary achievers. He framed it as something someone else said, and offended everyone sitting near me.
Because I was born and raised in St. Louis and I have been wondering all year about how much that mattered, and why some folks there think, say, that the cops in Ferguson were “just doing their jobs.”  When I was a kid we had Dr. Seuss books, including, “Horton Hatches the Egg,” in which an elephant is abandoned to sit on a nest through a bad winter and via the magical transformative powers of the universe punishing a neglectful parent hatches an elephant bird. Also, there is Twitter, where an egg is the default avi and emblem of a new user but most especially a new troll.
Ostrich egg, cracked
I had this errand in Poughkeepsie and I had to stop for gas, and the first place I stopped only took cash and I ask you: who has cash? I drove on. Merging back onto Route 9, I decided that if I had the cash, I wouldn’t spend it on gas anyway. There is a decrepit Sunoco station just up the road, but the first pump had “transaction cancelled” on the screen, so I pulled around to a second pump and nothing happened when I tried to swipe my card; as I tried to cancel the transaction, out came the 900-year-old proprietor shaking a chicken bone finger at me, “Out of gas! Out of gas!” he said, accusingly, as if what he meant was, “Get off my lawn!”
After the errand, I thought it would be a cool and productive thing to try Poughkeepsie’s “fancy” grocery so I stopped at Adams. Rarely have I been more poorly served by my determination.  For starters, how do you even get in the store? Some business innovator in the 90s figured out that hidden entrances and exits and a frustrating store layout will trap customers inside, extracting more sales from them. Yet, I persisted.  Then, I went in search of a cart, circling in and out of the store a couple of times, trying to understand. Finally, I found the carts, chained and all locked together. I followed a shopper with a cart, putting groceries in his car and asked him. He was, like, you have to pay a quarter! It was at this point I should have gotten back in my car. Of course, I didn’t have a quarter, either. But, no, I stayed and wandered and bought ground beef and never did find the beer or the popcorn.
I tried to count the supermarkets where I am pretty sure that I’ve actually cried, and came up with 6 different Seattle QFCs, 2 Whole Foods (both in NYC), 1 PCC, 2 Seattle Safeways, and 1 California Safeway (California Safeways are completely different from Seattle Safeways).  I do hate to shop, even if it’s just food.
Anyway, I had gotten the idea to make brioche buns for hamburgers again even though the first time I tried it I lost my shit having kitchen-mess-rage; see, the resulting buns were delicious and lasted for weeks in the freezer. Also, I had been offered the gift of an ostrich egg and accepted it in my effort to be an open-minded and curious person who appreciates trying new things. The ostrich egg is large as you might imagine, comparable to a cabbage, and the weight and size of it are nothing compared to the strength of the shell. Apparently one ostrich egg has the equivalent of about 10 chicken eggs inside it. The dog Cherry felt so much deep appreciation for the object she guarded the kitchen island where it sat, despite the fact that she couldn’t see it. I should have taken this behavior as a sign of trouble, of course.
I wasn’t going to try for something heroic like saving the shell by carefully blowing out the contents. No, I was thinking, let’s get this fucker cracked, ‘cause we’ve got dough to make. The Internet said you could do it with a hammer and chisel and also that you should have an assistant. So I had my youngest hold it and I tapped it with the chisel and hammer. So, well, a big crack formed down the length of the thing but it wasn’t enough of a crack to open it. So my kid encouraged me to tap it again. This was the moment the strong smelling cloudy yellow goo began spurting with great force out of the side of the egg. Basically now we had a tiny fountain of stonky ostrich booty-smelling rotten egg.
There may have been screaming.
The pets, who are pretty much all self-centered assholes every day of the week, were terribly interested in this entire procedure and were doing a joyous dance of anticipation. Those hairy fuckers were feeling tremendous admiration for our ability to get into the gas and putrefied ostrich yolk filled egg and really didn’t get why I had to yell and run around and put the egg in the trash in the garage and lament about how the dish soap wasn’t removing the smell from the bowl. But I’m telling you, the dish soap didn’t remove the smell from the bowl, people.
Getting back to the brioche, I had to use every last egg in the fridge (because brioche takes 10 eggs, bitches). And so I measured out all the milk and salt and yeast and flour and eggs and whatever and began the mixer phase. The mixer phase can be stressful because of the rising writhing dough blob that ascends violently from the bowl where it belongs. Flour and dough get everywhere and also there’s this long period where all you do is stand next to the gyrating mixer and you add a small cube of butter at a time and wait for it to be fully incorporated (whatever the fuck that means). This step requires patience. I tried to watch the mixer because last time it wanted to walk off the counter; this time,  I found it over in the corner dry-humping the microwave.
So while I was still trying to forget the smell and trauma of the rotten ostrich booty egg and my youngest was hiding in his room, I went to set the giant dough blob to rest overnight in the fridge and maybe make the slaw to make room and I discovered that the ground beef I bought the day before was turning all kinds of incredibly scary and ominous grey and brown colors and no longer looked like edible meat.  So now I was like, seriously fuck that. And, fuck that store.
But anyway I got the dough made. I got up early the next day to replace the nasty meat and do the baking.
So then the day after the hamburger party I drove the youngest child to a summer program and the day after that we were staying at a bed and breakfast near the school having breakfast with the other people staying there, as you do. We sat amidst the floral wallpaper and plastic plants on the shapely velvet-upholstered Victorian furniture and made obligatory chit-chat. One of the women was a history buff and held forth on the career highlights of Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward. I liked her.  Her husband complained that he wasn’t going to be getting any bacon or sausages. We also talked about cats and traveling with cats and the other wife, bossy and tart, informed me that a cat has to be trained to travel. The bacon lover told a cat story, and the history buff had to tell him that the cat he was talking about had belonged to another, earlier wife of his.  Bossy wanted me to know that they lived in a particularly beautiful place that was called New Hampshire. I said that I knew New Hampshire was beautiful and that I had lived in Vermont, but before I could say more, she interrupted me to say,  “New Hampshire is NOT Vermont.”
I wanted to reply, “No, New Hampshire would never send a socialist to the U.S. Senate,” but instead I smiled. I asked her where she was from and she proudly informed me, pausing to inhale, that she was from Poughkeepsie.

Bossy also told how she had a pet crow as a child; it had been brought to her when it had been found, unfledged, and her father had had a pet crow, and knew what to do and that made her seem somehow wonderful. Or at least like someone who had a strangely wonderful childhood.

A letter to the mouse that died in my kitchen last night

Dear Mouse,
You’ve probably been living in the basement your whole life, and today wasn’t even too cold. The cat, Schwartz, was feeling lively and caught you. I didn’t even know about you until I heard your peeps and squeaks by the back door.  Were you injured at that point, or just protesting?
Anyway, my first error was calling the dogs. It was an impulse. They found you with Schwartz and started the mad chase into the bathroom and around the toilet. That was me, the one screaming. Why I screamed I can’t say. I had pet rodents as a kid: mice, a hamster, a gerbil, a rat. I picked them up and carried them around. They were my pets. Sometimes they got loose and I had to catch them and put them back. I didn’t scream then. I must have been a better person then, somehow. Well, it wasn’t a little screaming. Sorry about the screaming.
Captain was the next one to pick you up and carry you around. He was the one who got you wet, I think. But when I shouted at him he dropped you and then Cherry snatched you up. She isn’t the quickest dog in the house, owing to her age, but tonight she was the deadliest.
You died quickly, mouse, and Cherry guarded you for a long time. She was very proud of what she’d done, and wouldn’t let anyone look at you or smell you or take you. She didn’t seem interested in eating you, which I would have let her do as the one who did the deed. Somehow, to my mind that seemed fair. Cherry appeared a little confused by the situation. Instinct ruled when she caught you and when she dispatched you, but after that she wasn’t sure. She growled at Schwartz, even, and she never growls at Schwartz.
There was no question of burying you since it’s nothing but ice outside right now. Maybe we could have left you out for the coyotes or the foxes, but where should one leave such an offering? Alas, you went into the trash.
You left a family behind, I’m sure. Schwartz is down there waiting for the next one of you. This is how it is with cats and mice. He keeps his cool, crouching quietly behind the boxes. He knows your habits, and makes a plan. Y’all don’t live very long, do you, mice? Between the hardships of weather and finding food, and then the cat or the foxes and hawks outside, life for you must be harsh and brief. I haven’t had it easy lately either, what with all the injustice in the world.  But I have a warm house, and food, and with any luck I shouldn’t have to watch predators capture and eat my children.

Did you leave behind hopes and dreams, unfulfilled? Will your family sigh over your promises unkept? Are they dividing your possessions as I write this, or do they not yet know? Will they be left wondering whatever happened to you? Maybe they heard the screams. I’m still sorry about the screams.

Vizsla, with mouse

Cat’s on the Roof and He Won’t Come Down

My father told two jokes that I remember, though he was devoted to the practical joke as an art form, with particular fondness for April Fools’ Day. One of the jokes he liked to tell, or told once, or I’m pretty sure he told once, maybe, was about a guy who went out of town on vacation for the first time in a long time, and left his brother as a house and pet sitter.
After just a couple of days, the guy on vacation calls his brother to check in, “Hey, how’s everything?” or something like that.
The brother’s like, “Oh, shit, man, your cat died.”
“WHAT!?!” says the guy. “Died! What are you doing, going and ruining my vacation and telling me the cat died?! Now I’m gonna be upset the whole trip, I’m gonna have to tell the wife and the kids why I’m upset, and they’ll get even more upset, and it’s all because of you! First vacation I’ve taken in years and you’ve ruined it! Man, you gotta learn to manage the information, you know?”
The brother, he doesn’t know.
“Manage the information! It goes like this,“ says the guy. “It makes no difference if I know exactly when the cat died. I’m on vacation! You can feed out the bad news a little at a time, see? Like breaking it to me slowly, like that. I call today, you say, ‘Oh, the cat’s on the roof and he won’t come down.’ I worry, but not a lot. I call back in a couple days and you say, ‘Cat fell off the roof, he’s at the vet, we don’t know if he’ll make it.’ Like that, see? You tell me the news, it gets worse bit by bit, and then right before I get back you tell me he died. But you don’t ruin my whole vacation over it. Jeez.”
After a pause the guy asks his brother, “So, how’s Mom?”
And after an even longer pause the brother says, “Uh, Mom’s on the roof, and she won’t come down.”
So last night when I tweeted, “The cat’s on the roof and he won’t come down,” my brother recognized the old joke as something he knows I like to tell, and he had to text me to ask, “…are you joking around or did something bad just happen?”
By the end of last week, the weather was cold enough at night that we were waking up at the farmhouse and finding it was 55F in the kitchen. Time had come to take the AC units out of the windows, store them in the basement and turn on the heat. This was accomplished by the Bacon Provider, doing his gender-normative best to uncomplainingly lift heavy objects and carry them downstairs.
The next day, after a long drive back from our youngest son’s school’s Parents Weekend (that included both a bank of overwhelmingly positive teacher conferences and a very sunny autumn soccer game where the youngest son was observed running, participating in defense, and kicking the ball), the Bacon Provider found that the sun into which we had been squinting in Connecticut had heated our Dutchess County farmhouse bedroom to an uninviting stuffiness, and opened the windows (including the one that had previously housed the AC unit, and had no cat-restraining screen). When Schwartz walked into our bedroom, he did not hesitate to jump up onto the windowsill, and did not further hesitate to disappear out the window into the dark night.
When you are sitting five feet away from a particular window and it is completely dark outside and it is a house you know but don’t know especially well, you are not immediately sure if–when your cat leaps out of that particular window–he lands on the roof of the porch below or if he falls to the grass, two stories down. I suggested, as one such person, sitting five feet away from the particular window, on my tired butt (worn out completely by a barrage of teacher conferences, by witnessing an athletic spectacle completely ordinary to parents the world around but actually quite out of the ordinary for me, and by driving back the two plus hours from the Connecticut school), and pretty determined not to move, saying aloud, “Hey. The cat just jumped out the window,” in the least alarmed voice I have, given that I haven’t actually been practicing sounding unalarmed. The Bacon Provider got out his tactical flashlight (which he carries at all times just in case, because you never know, and I might have a history here of rolling my eyes about it), peered into the darkness and assessed that the cat was already far from the point of his initial roof access from that particular window.
The cat, having left through the particular window in the dark, was, I felt, responsible for getting himself back in.
 

The cat’s on the roof and he won’t come down
The cat’s failure to promptly return was blamed on me. The cat’s ability to have left in the first place was blamed on the Bacon Provider.
I obtained a different flashlight, on principle, a large flashlight belonging to the owner of the house, for which I had recently purchased replacement batteries when I discovered that its had run down, changed the batteries, and went outside to assess the cat’s situation from the ground. I could hear the snuffling of horses in their overnight turnout paddocks, and then, the frantic call of a very frightened black cat, alone, in the dark, on top of the house. With the flashlight I revealed that the cat had ascended to the highest point of the roof.
The cat was on the roof, and he wouldn’t come down.
I may have tweeted this. Probably right away. Maybe.
Strategically chosen windows were opened, and lights were arranged to illuminate the cat’s easiest re-entry into the house, but no amount of our coaxing from these windows would persuade Schwartz to take even a single step down.
Bacon Provider made a persistent effort, sitting on the windowsill for a while, trying to reason with the cat, and finishing by telling him he was “a fucking idiot.” We went to sleep knowing that the cat was on the roof, and he wouldn’t come down.
Just after dawn, Schwartz had shifted away from the chimney and was demonstrating awareness of the illuminated window (you could see him from it). I pointed out to him (the cat) that I would be able to reach him if he would just take a few steps towards me. The cat tried to take a few steps, but the crumbly feeling of asphalt shingles and the steep-ish pitch of the roof was too much for him. Schwartz retreated to the peak of the roof.
Next, the Bacon Provider got up and gave the situation some serious analysis (this is not unusual behavior for him). Obtaining a towel to change the objectionable footing, and opening the top of the window so he was reaching across the gap to the top of the dormer, my husband thought he could grab the cat if he could get him do the unthinkable: to come to the edge.
The cat had come out to the dormer of the roof, but he still wouldn’t come down.
Well, dear reader, they don’t call him the Bacon Provider for nothing. He went to the kitchen and brought to the theater of cat rescue operations a bit of cat kibble in a cat dish, with that cat-familiar rattle and cat-enticing smell. This was all Schwartz needed to take the steps down the scary slope, just enough to be grabbed by the scruff of his fat, black neck, re-grabbed (and possibly almost dropped from a great height), and pulled, confidently, inside. Along the way, the entire enticement of cat kibble was scattered all over the roof. When Bacon Provider put the cat down on the carpet, the cat sat down and licked his shoulder as if nothing had happened—nothing at all.
I hope that crows find the cat food on the roof and enjoy themselves.

Not long after giving himself a temporary pass on self-coat-inspection, Schwartz joined me in my room, going directly– without pausing to say “Hello!” or “Look! I made it!” or even, “Meow!”  –to that particular windowsill where he made his initial escape, checking to see if maybe that particular window was still open so he could do it all over again.

25 Things My Cat Does

In the interest of fairness, I made a list of areas in which my cat is more skillful than I am. Please feel free to add to this list in the comments section.
Purring
Jumping onto things
Jumping off of things
Meowing
Sleeping curled up anywhere
Sniffing at crumbs
Thundering down the stairs
Looking cute for pictures
Moving into the camera lens after it is focused
Eating grass
Looking comfortable sprawled on the floor
Being ready to have a fight to the death over going somewhere in the car
Showing indifference for a new toy
Showing indifference for an old toy
Rolling on the floor and becoming utterly dusty in every way
Looking out the window
Hiding from new people
Pricking ears
Begging for more kibble from the Belly Scratcher
Expressive tail gestures
Yawning
Disappearing
Pooping in the bathtub
Being creepy
Barfing up hairballs