This was the longest February of my life. I ordered four too many jars of dijon mustard from Fresh Direct because someone else keeps putting the groceries away while I keep trying to replace what I could not find. I am sorry to say I had to decline eight or eleventy-seven and a third invitations to Zoom events, because I knew I’d forget to join anyway. I stared for many hours blank-eyed into the void of space between me and the pantry, scrounging together dozens of meals with listless resentment. I stood barefoot and amazed by the hundreds of snowstorms that rolled through Bedhead Hills this February, and the dogs enjoyed most of the thousand mile marches on snowshoes through our speck of woods. There were ten thousand and one migraines for me, and a hundred thousand interminable Tuesdays, and of course I was ever so busy ignoring eight hundred fifty three thousand spam phone calls, deleting a million and six unwanted emails, vacuuming up twelve million thirty two thousand five hundred of those dead orange ladybugs, and I do not exaggerate about making ninety-nine million attempts to check the New York State covid-19 vaccine portal all resulting in no appointments available, unless you are willing to travel 400 miles for one, life-saving shot, and then do it again a few weeks later.
Oh, and the other thing is I kept up with the daily coronavirus data, and made one of these every day.
The one person in my life who is completely in favor of the pandemic is my cat, Schwartz.
I feed him twice a day, at the same time as the dogs, but if he finds someone up late getting a snack, or up early to talk to someone on the other side of the world, he asks for an extra breakfast. The Bacon Provider is working long days, from home.
When I get up, I feed the dogs first, and lock them in their kennels. Schwartz’s breakfast is a tiny scoop of cat kibble and a spoonful of the raw chicken medley I buy for the dogs. He finishes most of it, and if he leaves so much as a single crumb, Eggi gets it.
I do pilates via Zoom three times a week, at 9:30 am. In the first few weeks, he’d visit me during the session, and leave. Then he started demanding to be petted during the session. After that he got overstimulated or impatient and bit me a couple of times. So I got a big bag of the cat treats he likes, and started throwing them around the room to divert him. Now Schwartz howls loudly and insistently every day at about 9:15 am, just in case it’s a pilates day.
He stays the whole session.
On the days I don’t have pilates, he goes to the room and has a nap just in case. He doesn’t want to miss out.
He is turning 16 in April, so he’s not an especially active cat anymore. If he isn’t waiting for pilates, he likes to nap on his special windowsill, or under the piano bench, on a chair in the living room, or in my bed.
Schwartz yowls if his water bowl is empty. He yowls if the dogs’ water bowl is empty. He yowls if his water bowl is almost empty. He yowls if the water bowl might someday be empty, or should be changed or shouldn’t be changed.
He also shouts about his litterbox needing attention, and screams if he wants to go hunting in the basement, and meows if he experiences symptoms of ennui.
When he produces a hairball, everyone has a chance to see it and admire it, because no one has anyplace to go.
Schwartz voices no opinion about anything in politics. He is probably an egoist anarchist with revolutionary tendencies, committing acts of sabotage (pooping outside the litterbox, pissing on piles of dirty laundry) and violent insurrection (biting me while I’m exercising).
When he leaves a turd on the floor next to the litterbox and I’m not the first to find it, there is an entertaining moment of excited dogs running around and people yelling.
Dinner is promptly at 6 pm. Schwartz starts complaining for dinner at 4 pm.
After dinner, there is TV to watch or a fight to pick with a dog.
At bedtime, Schwartz remembers that he is probably a dog, and joins us in the bathroom when the dogs get their teeth brushed.
The cat visits me while I’m sleeping, walking the entire length of my body and curling up in the pillows or next to me, or stretching out on top of me, with his paws on my face. He takes up as much room as my husband.
He hopes everything stays just like this, forever.
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.
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.
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.
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.
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js 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
Earlier when I said my elbows didn’t hurt? I was wrong about that. Also my toes. Officially, even the air around me hurts. Officially
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.)
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.
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.
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.