Monday, November 20, 2017

A Good Reason to Keep Weapons Out of the Living Room

Blitz still played with dog kibbles. I heard him in the kitchen , rattling a kibble back and forth. If it were a jingly ball or a krinkly one, I'd have been amused, even when they got lost under the stove. But they, being food, felt different when they get lost under the stove.

Mike turned to me and raised an eyebrow.

So, when I finally relaxed next to Mike on the couch, when my work day was finally over, when I was tired and I'd earned a rest, I got annoyed when I heard that little kibble preparing to get lost under the stove.

There were a couple of places where kibbles got lost in my kitchen: under the stove, under a microwave cart that didn't have a microwave on it, and in a narrow place between the fridge and the dishwasher. The fridge was just low enough there, that the kibbles got wedged and I had to take a butter knife to dig it out and that thing always came out with dog and cat hair stuck to it. I knew things got sterilized in the dishwasher, but I wondered, 'what if it didn't and I ended up eating that shit?'

If I ate that shit, I'd probably have gotten a better immune system. It turned out that all that antibacterial soap was bad for our immune systems. It was funny how doctors told you to wash your hands during flu season, but turned around and told you to stop using the antibacterial soap. And the bathrooms at the doctor's offices still used antibacterial soap.

So, I didn't like when I had to dig those little kibbles out from under the edge of the fridge with a butter knife.

And the microwave cart. That thing was big, loaded, and hard to move, but I still had to vacuum under there periodically. Dust bunnies.

Because of Blitz, it got dust bunnies and dog kibbles. And my vacuum sounded like it was breaking whenever one of those things got sucked up and spun around for a while. What would twenty of them actually do to my vacuum?

Did I ever tell you I loved my vacuum cleaner. It was a Shark. Seriously, it was a good design. I could vacuum corners, ceiling, and the main part of the carpet as I went along. I just wished it had a lower center of gravity so it didn't fall on my foot when I took the wand out and stretched up to catch cobwebs from the skylight. That was it's only flaw. The rest, the little fur spinner, the way it was so easy to empty, engineering at its finest.

No, that was not a commercial. I'd been working on getting paid for the work that I did. I'd have liked to get paid. I was going to get paid for my volunteering soon, but the tenor of the work was already changing. Don't you hate when that happens?

So, I was telling you about the dog kibbles under the microwave cart. Since I'm afraid of the nasty sound my vacuum makes when I vacuum up those things, I have to stop the vacuum and lean over to pick the hunks of fur, dust buffaloes, and dog kibbles. It really sours my appreciation for the dog kibbles.

Teddy ate Hills I/D diet. The cool thing about I/D was that when I opened the bag, it smelled like an Arby's roast beef sandwich. I kid you not. I'd never tasted one of the kibbles, but that smell was so much better than the vomit looking and fishy smelling stuff I spooned out for the cats. It made feeding him much nicer.

The problem was that the furry ones under the microwave cart didn't smell like that any more. And they were furry and gross. Plus, I was always tempted to pick out the fur and make Teddy eat them anyway. Was that so awful? Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn't. I never said I was consistent.

And cleaning out under the stove?

That took a broom, time on my knees, my aching knees, and a headlamp. I really hated what I found when I cleaned out the space under my stove. I wouldn't have had to do it nearly as often if not for Blitz. Remember Blitz?

So, imagine all those jobs, the furry butter knife, the rattling vacuum cleaner, and the aching knees, when I finally relaxed on the couch to an episode or two of Breaking Bad with Mike and I heard one of those kibbles being batted around in the kitchen.

Yeah, it was a good thing there were no weapons in my living room.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Warning Cry

You know, we're cruising along here. The kitten is a cat. The dog finally got his own minion, the kitten-cat. Last week, we had to tell Teddy he wasn't allowed to chase Blitz out of the living room. Since then, Blitz has gotten much more relaxed around us in the living room. He lounges on the couch. He lounges in the recliner. He sits in laps, my lap mostly.

But we still may have a problem. Seth may be having some moments of dementia.

The other day, Seth walked down the stairs and stood at the bottom and cried. This was the loud kind of crying, like when I accidentally burned turkey burgers on the stove and Seth felt the need to warn me the house was burning down as I rushed around trying to open windows and clear smoke. Mike was pissed about that one. We had to wash the walls and cabinets in the kitchen to get the black out. Let's just say that I do a whole lot better when I don't eat sugar. Sugar is not my friend. My mind goes completely haywire when I eat sugar. No sugar. None.

But Seth's crying was loud like that, a foghorn warning, sirens screaming, coyotes hunting. He had water. He had food. His litter box wasn't too far gone with kitten poop.

Who knew what it was?

"Seth honey, come on up stairs. Here kitty, kitty. Come on up," I shouted down the stairs.

And he came upstairs, looked at me on the couch, leaped into my lap, and stood there as if trying to find his dignity.

We may be in for some days with Seth. I'll let you know.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Truly Feral

Hi!

I didn't die. I'm really here. I've just been on vacation, right?

Nope. No vacation.

I wrote a kitten book and I just finished it yesterday and sent it off. I have to apologize to all eight of you readers because even if you might be interested in reading a book about a feral kitten coming home, you've read almost all of it here. I hate reading a book and getting half way through and realizing that I've already read it. Don't you?

As I sit here, Blitz is running back and forth in the kitchen while playing with one of Teddy's dog kibbles. It will most likely get stuck under the stove and make my vacuum cleaner sound like it's breaking when I suck it up.

The little dirt bag.

Here's the thing that didn't make it into the book.

My mother called the other day. She's pretty healthy and all, but she has gout. I hope to God I never get gout because when I do, I'll begin every conversation with normal humans with, "I've got this pain."

Honestly, now that my joints are starting to feel crunchy, I'm beginning to understand why so many old people go on and on and on. And fucking on about their aches and pains.

"You don't know pain until you've had gout," she told me.

I resisted the urge to talk about the time I was in the hospital and the X-ray technicians needed me to stand upright for the myelogram and I kept passing out because my broken back was lighting up a whole bunch of nerve pathways at one time, hot, cold, cut, punctured, burned, and abraded all at one time.

I hate when people tell me I don't know pain.

But it wouldn't have made her feel any better about her pain if I'd argued that I did know pain. It would just make her feel like nobody was listening to her own pain. We humans really suck at listening, me especially.

So, I tried to listen and tried not to imagine too carefully what gout felt like. See, I hate seeing those 'funny' videos in which some poor slob does a face plant scorpion slide across concrete because I feel actual pain when I do.

Maybe that's why humans are terrible at listening to our parents complain about pain, because we can feel some of that pain. I tried to change the subject from gout.

"I wrote a book about my cats, Ma," I said.

"That's nice, Dear," she said.

Apparently, she can't comprehend the time and energy involved in writing a book, even one about cats. So, I let her go back to the gout and the way she couldn't walk for a few days and the doctor said, and she said, and the gout isn't gone yet, but feels a little less like an icepick was driven through her foot.

"How is your kitten?" she asked.

Wow. I'd settled in for the long haul and I'd reached the end of the trail about a half hour before I thought I would.

"He's funny. He likes to tuck a dog kibble under the kitchen rug then worm under it with his head and shoulders. It's a wonder I haven't stepped on him while I cook."

And I went on and on about my kitten. And on.

Finally, I caught myself. See, I'm the age that most women are becoming grandmothers. Nick is way too young for that, so I've satisfied that need by treating two cats and a dog as if they are babies.

It wouldn't surprise me if my friends laugh about that when I'm not around. I wouldn't mind. It would be true. Better that than to nag an eighteen year old boy about when he's going to give me grandchildren. That is never going to be fodder for the dinner conversation. It sucks to be on the receiving end of that question.

So, I managed to quell my grandmotherly instincts and ask my mother about her cat.

"Oh, Baby is doing just fine."

Baby is not a good name for any pet. It's just embarrassing. Baby.

Can you imagine going to the sliding glass door, opening it, and yelling, "Baby! Come here, Baby! Baaabeeeee?"

Mortifying.

"Baby is beginning to get old. She's fourteen."

I thought I remembered that she got her cat just a few months before I got mine so that would make Baby twelve, thirteen at most. But these kind of conversations were futile unless you were trying to ascertain levels of dementia. I was not. If my mother was going senile, I didn't want to know about it yet. She had begun to change long-standing family stories, but I figured she was entitled to that. I had no intention of worrying until she seemed to forget something important. When I'm eighty-five, I want to be able to change my stories too. I don't want some young punk telling me I remembered it wrong.

I'd phased out of the conversation for a bit.Thankfully, my mother was still talking about Baby. She was more of an indoor cat than she had been. She still didn't like anyone but my mother. She disappeared every time anyone came to the house. My mother told the whole story about how Baby came to her door when she was a kitten, a cold and starving feral kitten that was already more than half grown. I had heard this story. I knew that part was true. I'd only ever petted Baby twice, both times when I'd opened the door after everyone left my mother's house, both times when I'd been completely silent and had a bowl of food in my hands ready for her. Baby was almost completely feral. The only other person she liked was her veterinarian, the traveling vet who had examined my grandma's cat Buddy before he traveled to my house. But Baby was more than skittish. Baby was a one woman cat.

"Baby spends more time on my lap and now she sleeps with me at night," my mother said. She went on about her Baby. I guess I'm not the only one who wanted grandkids, or rather great-grandkids. Then she said that Baby also asked to be let out to the garage when she needed to use her litter box.

"Seriously? She asks to be let out?" 

Imagine not letting a cat have her litter box in the house because it was too messy. Yuck.

Then, she dropped the bomb.

"Who knows which of us is going to live longer, me or Baby. I really don't know what I'm going to do with Baby after I die."

And then, she let the conversation hang. I hated when she let the conversation hang. I resisted the urge to tell her that she wasn't going to be able to do anything when she died. Really, it was so tempting when she was angling to get me to agree to something.

"We can take her if you need us to. I'm sure she would be okay here."

I wasn't sure she'd be okay here. I had no idea if she'd be okay here. At least with my grandma's cat, Buddy, he'd let me pet him and brush him. Buddy had always liked me even when he didn't like anyone else. He'd liked Nick. Nick was the only great-grandkid that Buddy had let pet him. That made it easy.

But I told my mother that we'd take care of her, that she didn't have to worry, that we had room for one more cat even though she informed me that Baby hated male cats and dogs. We had two male cats and a dog. That was going to be so fucked if it happened.

Eventually, my mother had to get off the phone to go to her quilting meeting. Mike wandered into the kitchen where I still sat on the footstool. A lot of times, I sat on that footstool while I had conversations with my extended family.

"So, my mother made me promise to take her cat, Baby, if she died."

"Oh man, I've never even seen that cat in eleven years it's so wild."

"Yeah, and she hates male cats and dogs too. And she goes outdoors whenever she wants."

"You're going to have to bring her here? Really?"

"Yup," I said. "I am. I promised."

Mike didn't say another word, just shook his head and made himself a ham and cheddar sandwich.

Then, as he walked out of the kitchen with his sandwich in hand, he said, "You had better pray that your mom lives a nice long life. That cat would be absolutely miserable here. You know that, right?"

I know that.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Feline Exercise Routine

I found a sad little Fourth of July pom-pom in a drawer today while I was looking for something else. We originally found it in the grass at the end of a fireworks show when Nick was five or so. We hadn't been generous enough to buy him one of those doodads that spun and thrashed tentacles and made an annoying whining noise. Some kid had lost her Fourth of July pom-pom. Nick picked it up, swatted Mike's leg, and wanted to know if he could keep it. He waved it around experimentally. He loved the Fourth of July pom-pom, he said, a Harry Potter wand, he said. Trying not to think about the transmission of germs or the fact that a dog could have peed on the Fourth of July pom-pom as it lay in the grass, we said okay. Mike took it from Nick, sniffed it, and handed it back. Smelled okay.

On the walk to the car, my legs were lashed with that Fourth of July pom-pom until I threatened to take it away. Nick clutched it in his fist. On the drive home, it repeatedly splashed my face as I sat next to him until the hour and the rhythm of the car caught up with him and he fell asleep.

At home, that toy was left on the living room floor and shoved into the bottom of the toy box, but it got new life one day when it came out of the toy box and Seth, then a kitten, heard the swishy-swishy sound of the strands of tinsel. When Nick held it in the air above Seth's head, he leaped, twisted, grabbed, and rolled about on the floor in paroxysms of ecstasy.  He loved the Fourth of July pom-pom. The problem was that whenever anyone left it on the floor, he would lie on top of it with his paws guarding the fluff like a kid holding a whole bag of Cheetos and he would chew on the pathetic tuft of tinsel that spewed from one end. It became his favorite forbidden toy.

Seth eats tinsel. He eats garland made of tinsel. He eats Easter Grass because it looks like tinsel and he eats Nerf bullets and anything made out of Nerf bullet material. I'm not sure why he eats these things, but a few years ago, there was a moratorium on tinsel and plastic Easter grass plus Nick and his friends were instructed to scour the house for Nerf bullets immediately after any Nerf war they had because of the effect on the litter box. The litter box by itself is bad enough but when there were hunks of tinsel or Nerf bullets wrapped in shit, I gagged a little while I was doing my work of cleaning it.

There was also the time I chased Seth around the house because from his butt, he dragged a strand of poop pearls clinging to a length of tinsel. I eventually caught him, but not before those turds had bounced across carpet, kitchen vinyl, the couch, the pillow on the couch, and even the coffee table.

Eventually, I used a pair of scissors to clip that tinsel instead of pulling it. My vet told me that if I pulled it, Seth's intestines could be gathered up at the back of his butt, get crimped, and kill him. No pulling the tinsel. Got it.

For years, we played with Seth and that ratty little Fourth of July pom-pom. When Nick played with Seth too hard and its plastic handle bent, I inserted a straw inside to straighten it. After playing, getting Seth onto his back, wrestling with the Fourth of July pom-pom, I carefully tucked it out of sight on top of my grandma's china cabinet where Seth couldn't find it and Nick wouldn't forget and leave it lying on the floor to be chewed on and swallowed in strands. Eventually, Nick got tall enough to pull it out to play with Seth for a bit and tuck it back in when he was done. And after a couple more years, we practically forgot about the old Fourth of July pom-pom.

When I first set up the downstairs bathroom for Blitz's arrival, I pulled out the abandoned Fourth of July pom-pom and tucked it into a drawer. It might be good for a middle-of-the-night romp. What kitten wouldn't love a ratty Fourth of July pom-pom with a straw reinforcing it's bent handle and some of the tinsel chewed off?

There it stayed for the better part of a year until just today, when I went looking for something in that downstairs bathroom drawer.

Sure enough, Blitz loved it, leaped, twisted, grabbed, and lay on the floor in paroxysms of ecstasy. Then Seth, after watching the fun for a bit, jumped in and grabbed the ratty, broken, Fourth of July pom-pom with some of the tinsel chewed off. You're never too old to play.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, September 29, 2017

Tuna?

Yesterday morning sometime after 3:57, an avalanche of things crashed to the floor. It seemed to stop then more clattered down.

Fuck, I thought.

I had woken up about a half hour earlier when Blitz started playing with a rock. I was so tired, I tried to figure out how to go back to sleep despite the clacking on the laminate floor. I was too tired to squirt him with the water bottle. Too tired to get up and take his clackety rock away. This is one reason I prefer carpet. It's quieter.

I did go back to sleep.

Then, a cat jumped onto the bed and walked the length of my legs. I don't know which one. Does it matter? By then, it was 3:56 in the morning. My vision is bad, but I have a big-screen alarm clock. Fucking 3:56. I squinted. 3:57 a.m. I know the cats know how to get onto the bed without waking me. I know they know where my body is under the covers. Some mornings, I wake up with my hand on a cat and I have no idea how either the cat or my hand got there without my knowing it. This walking the length of my body has always been a ploy to wake me up.

Like Simon's cat. You've watched Simon's cat, right? 

I'd been tricked into giving the cats flaked tuna at night before bed. Oh, it's fun to leave the room at night and have the whole fur family walk with me to the bedroom. I am so popular, I think. It's just the flaked tuna, Mike told me one night. I still liked being popular.

Then, the other morning, Seth, looking scrawny and sad, convinced me that some flaked tuna in the morning was a good idea. Put some meat on your bones, I thought, and gave him a pinch on a little pile of kitten food. Suddenly, I was popular again and Blitz was nosing Seth out of his own bowl. Tuna flakes for everyone, I thought happily.

Bad idea.

After one morning of tuna flake training, I was elevated to next-level tuna flake training. Wake up earlier for tuna flakes. For a few days, I couldn't figure out why I was so exhausted, why I kept waking up a half hour before my alarm, then forty-five minutes, then an hour. My ass was dragging. Really, don't blame me for not getting it. These guys are masterminds.

Then, the kitten got impatient, sloppy. Next-level tuna flake training requires patience and subtlety. Seth had been trying to train him, but he wanted his tuna flakes now. NOW!

Thus, the rock. He'd pulled it off my desk and dropped it. Not enough. Shoot. He needed to walk the length of  my body. Well, someone needed to. I was not waking up properly with the clackety rock.

So, when the crash came, I knew it was not an earthquake. I did not think Trump had finally lost the nuclear codes to the North Korean dictator. I knew exactly who was behind this catastrophe.

"Fucking cat!" I yelled.

I found the lamp switch and ripped the CPAP off my face while it blowed air into the air.

"Fucking shit cat," I repeated. I slapped at my CPAP machine until the air stopped blowing.

Mike and Nick surely heard the crash. What the hell was a little more noise? At least this way, they'd know what it was and go back to sleep.

I squinted. No clock blinking red. Teddy stood on the edge of his bed, aggrieved. My fake-Tiffany lamp lay on its side in the middle of his bed. No broken glass. A pile of books lay around it. My clock, unplugged, lay on the floor. Other little rocks, a framed photo, and my saline spray. My candle, the dish it sat on, and a half-burnt cedar punk, scattered.

What the hell?

I reached for my glasses and turned on the overhead light. My eyes ached then focused again. Little black chunks of burnt cedar ash were scattered everywhere. Both cats blinked at me. They tried to look innocent.

"That wasn't me," Seth seemed to say.

"Me neither," Blitz's innocence tried to indicate.

"Get out," I yelled.

Blitz peeled out on the laminate floor and crashed into the door trying to get around the corner. 

I closed two sets of doors and before I came back to the crime scene, there was pathetic banging on the outer door. No way in hell. I was going to be alone.

"Shut up." I said more quietly.

The books had come from the top of the bookshelf. That had to be Seth. Blitz couldn't jump that high. The rocks on the floor were Blitz's thing. The clock? Someone tangled in the clock cord. I couldn't quite make out what had happened, but it involved both cats. I was sure of that. Miraculously, nothing was broken, not even the light bulb. Poor Teddy. Everything had probably landed on poor Teddy. He looked exhausted, dark doggie circles hung under his eyes.

I moved everything back into place and patted Teddy's bed.

He wasn't having it. That bed was a hazardous site. He stood by the door, begging to go up to his other bed, the new couch.

Since I knew he was innocent, I opened the doors for him to go out.

Blitz sprinted into the room, then stopped and looked up at me. He rubbed against my legs.

Oh, he did not know how close to a football he had become.

"Get out," I said.

But he only moved a foot or two away before coming back. Seth came around the corner into the hall. He was silent, cautious. Was that an apology? From Seth?

I knew if I closed the door on them, Blitz would rattle that second door until I got up and let him in. So with both doors open, I got back into bed. I put my CPAP mask back on and snuggled down under my covers.

Blitz jumped onto the bed.

Tuna?

"Get Off," I said and pushed him off.

I'm sure I hurt his feelings. I didn't care. Both cats stood at the crime scene pacing silently back and forth.

"Get off," I repeated.

When my alarm went off an hour and a half later, both cats sat innocently on the edge of the bed. I hadn't heard them come up. They hadn't made a sound when they settled in.

I sat up and looked at the clock. 5:50 a.m. Seth sat. Demure. Giving me space. Blitz got up and came over for me to pet him. I resisted the urge to push him off the bed again. I petted him briefly and stood up. Nick's lunch, my smoothie. It was Monday. Busy day. Blitz looked at me with bright eyes.

Tuna?

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Elk Sausage

Quite a few months ago, a friend gave us a roll of elk sausage that he had made. It sounded weird, even to me. But I promised I'd eat it and get back to him about the taste. I had tasted elk at a restaurant once. It was dry and needed salt, a lot more salt. But I didn't say that to my friend. The look on his face was that of a puppy sitting on command for the first time, eager, energetic, and sweet.

When I got home with the squishy roll that was oozing a bit of blood from the butt ends, I promptly put the thing into a Ziploc bag and onto the bottom shelf of the freezer. In the back. I didn't have to cook it right then, did I?

Oh, I eat all kinds of food. I even ate an ant once on a dare from my brother when I was about nine. He ate his live and I smashed mine, left most of its protein between my thumb and forefinger, then chased it with a Snickers bar. Nasty. I still shudder whenever I think of that, especially since my brother told me that his ant tried to climb back up his throat. I don't know if it was true but it still gags me when I think of it. True brotherly love lasts a lifetime.

So, the oozing roll of elk went out of my mind for long enough that my friend stopped asking me if I liked the taste. There are some limits to friendship, you know, and eating a roll of bloody elk sausage might be one of them.

But, there came a time, when the clear plastic Costco bag of chicken tenders indicated to Mike that it was time to eat it down. Eat it down is what Mike tells me to do whenever the stuff in the deep freeze starts to look like fossils.

I should never let him cook. First, he was not happy about having to make yet another meal. This wasn't what he signed up for when we first agreed that I would stay home with the baby. The baby was seventeen. He didn't need babysitting any more. There were dinners to make and I'm sure Mike thought about the fact that he'd just worked ten hours while I was noodling around on the computer all day, earning a total of nothing.

When he went downstairs to the freezer, did I imagine that his steps were just a little too firm? I heard plastic rustling and chunks of frost-heave falling off the roof of the freezer while he rummaged around. He walked up the steps with a bag of desiccated chicken tenders and looked me in the eye as I lounged in front of the computer.

"We need to start to eat it down again," he said. We.

"Oh, do we?" I said, innocently. He knew that I knew exactly what all that meat cost and what it currently looked like, dead, mummified, about to turn to dust.

That night, we ate peanut chicken slathered in peanut sauce so we could barely taste the dried-out and slightly off flavor of the chicken. You know what flavor I mean, freezer flavor. It's not bad, exactly. It won't send anyone to the toilet. But it had the distinct flavor I could always smell whenever I opened any freezer, mine, my mom's, my sister's, or my Grandma's . You just don't go about opening people's freezers unless they're family. You just don't. That frosty air wafts up and lays bare any notion that you are going to relish any meal that is produced from it, even Grandma's. I could always taste freezer in meat that had hung around too long. I'm sure Mike could taste it too, but there was the cost of what had gone into the freezer and, dammit, we were going to get it back out again if we had to eat that way for a month.

For the next week, I pored over the contents of the freezer each night and hoped to see something different. One block of ground beef, a quart of ice cream that Nick had somehow missed, a block of frozen squash, and chicken, lots of chicken. A whole chicken, chicken breasts, boneless skinless tasteless chicken thighs, chicken tenders, and even ground chicken. I dutifully cooked these into roasted freezer-burned chicken one night, cornflake crumby chicken another, more freezer-flavored peanut chicken, and finally chicken meatballs slow-cooked in Louisiana hot sauce. I never tasted the freezer in the chicken meatballs. I could never taste a thing while eating that Louisiana hot sauce. That night, when I made the meatballs, Mike said dinner was good.

After almost two weeks of eat it down, the freezer was finally emptied of everything but chicken thighs, miraculously the ice cream, and that rock hard roll of elk sausage on the bottom shelf of the freezer. In the back. There weren't enough thighs to make a whole meal.. I picked up the ice cream and held it in my hands. Coffee.

I loved coffee ice cream. I put it back on the shelf before my hot hands could melt it inside the container.

"You could have ice cream before dinner," a voice whispered. Steam rolled out of the freezer. Suddenly, it smelled sweet, lost the odor of raw meat. "Ice cream for dinner," it sighed. "No one would have to know. You don't have to eat that old meat shit. There are spoons down here. You could sit on the cooler and eat the whole thing until it was gone. No one would ever know."

Then, I knew. The devil lived in my freezer. Or at least in my head while I was standing in front of the open door of the freezer, in front of that glowing quart of ice cream.

If I ate that quart of ice cream, capillaries in my eyeballs would burst and I'd go blind. I'd get an immediate case of gangrene in my toes and they'd have to be cut off. I'd go into a diabetic coma and Mike would eventually find me lying on the floor with the ice cream container still in one hand, an old spoon in the other, the freezer door ajar and dropping chunks of frost onto the fake wood laminate flooring. Yes, the devil lived in my mind.

I grabbed the chicken thighs and the roll of elk sausage, slammed the door on that quart of coffee ice cream, and ran up the stairs.
 
I cut the little metal crimps off of either end of the elk roll and put it on a plate in the microwave to defrost. Twenty-five minutes. In the meantime, I tried a new recipe for the chicken tenders, haloumi chicken, and got to work on steaming some vegetables. The elk roll bled all over the inside of my microwave, despite the fact that I'd put a plate under it. Blood fucking everywhere. Cleaning up was so unappetizing, especially blood from raw meat.

An hour and a half later, I served beautiful plates of haloumi chicken with roasted tomatoes in virgin olive oil, virgin. There was steamed asparagus and cauliflower with butter and lemon pepper on the side plus little rounds of elk sausage with hickory smoked salt and onion.

"I didn''t like it," Mike said when he returned his plate, empty except for two elk rounds with a tiny bit missing from one edge. "Maybe it needed more salt."

"It tasted weird, Mom," Nick said, handing me his plate. His elk sausage hadn't changed shape. Did he even take one bite?

So, as I cleaned up the kitchen, Teddy and Blitz threatened to trip me. They would eat some elk. It wouldn't be a total loss. They had become accustomed to getting a tiny bit of what I had cooked for dinner. Well, Blitz got something and Teddy just stood around looking hopeful.

Poor Teddy had allergies. I'd learned my lesson on a tiny piece of steak once. The next day, he horked that steak into the crevice between the back seat and the door handle and I'd had to wipe it up. It was yellow and green and slimy.

They really wanted what I'd been cooking, these two. Blitz has learned that if he got to talking, I talked back to him until, eventually, I relented and gave him some of what I was eating. He'd eat anything. Chicken, salmon, tuna, beef. He even ate a leaf of spinach one time. That cat definitely came from a trailer park. If I'd offered him pickled pig's feet, I thought he would have eaten it.

So, I put a tiny piece of the rejected elk in front of him.

He looked at the meat, sniffed it, then looked back up at me.

"Go ahead," I said. "Try it. It's elk. What kitten do you know who gets to eat elk?"

He meowed and stepped over the tiny morsel lying on the floor. He rubbed against my ankles. He wanted chicken.

Against my better judgement, I leaned over, picked up the hunk of elk and threw it at Teddy. It hit him on the nose and fell between his feet. He sniffed it. Nope. Wasn't going to eat that shit. No way, Jose.

Blitz meowed again. He wanted something to eat, real food. They both, Teddy and Blitz, walked back and forth over that little bit of elk until I finally relented and gave them each bits of the chicken.


Over the next few days, I ate that entire roll of elk sausage myself. It was dry, tasted freezer burned, and needed salt.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Most Natural Thing in the World

Today was a banner day!

See, my nephew Ryan came to visit because the birthday present we gave him was totally lame and we needed to give him a decent gift.

And take him out for pizza.

No, giving Ryan a stupid present does not make this a banner day. It does not. It was embarrassing. See, we got him a Lego kit of Berlin when we were in Germany, but it turns out that it cost a bunch of euros and was about an inch by two inches by five inches, or at least that was how it looked when he sent me the picture. Plus, when we got back, we realized that Lego is the same ALL OVER THE WORLD, so nothing was stopping us from saving the space in our luggage and buying it at the mall when we got home.

I want to know what happened at Lego that the kits are so tiny and so expensive. Is there a plastic tax I didn't hear of yet? Was it affecting marine mammals? Did Lego just get so incredibly cool that they could afford to charge 30 euros for a kit that builds to 1x2x5 inches?

Inches!

Right. Lego being too cool for school wasn't what made it was a banner day either.

As I was saying, Ryan showed up and we did normal stuff with him. We picked up pizza. We walked the dog. We gave him a gift card.

No, I'm telling you that getting pizza and walking the dog are not the reasons it was a banner day. Just hold on until I get to it, okay? 

Ryan likes walking the dog. We went to the river and threw rocks. Did you know I can't skip a rock any more? It's also a little bit of a sad day when I realize that I can't skip a rock any more. After that, we picked up food for dinner and I cooked macaroni and cheese.

Yes, having a macaroni and cheese day does make it a banner day. It does, especially Mike's mom's recipe for mac and cheese.

I had to sit here and think about that for a minute and say a blessing for Mike's mom's soul and the gift of her macaroni and cheese recipe. You know, I imagine a heaven that includes Mike's mom and unlimited macaroni and cheese. With hot dogs.

But the coolest thing that happened with Ryan was that Blitz, after listening to us sit and chat, after we spent ordinary time sitting on the couch, after we ate macaroni and cheese, and after 'Serenity' came on and we talked about the possibility of a remake of the Firefly series written by Joss Whedon, -  remember Blitz? Blitz actually walked into the middle of the living room and spent some time eyeing Ryan to see if he would turn into a predator. When he didn't. Blitz jumped onto my lap and let me pet him for a minute.

Then, I pulled out kitten cookies and threw them all over the floor until all the animals were running around like toddlers at an Easter egg hunt.

But then we laughed.

Blitz flattened then ran helter-skelter down the stairs as if he were being chased. When nobody chased him, he came back up the stairs after twenty minutes or so to see if anyone had left him any more cookies. After that, he wandered back and forth like having Ryan over was the most natural thing in the world. Maybe it was.

And that was why it was a banner day in our house today.

Thank you for listening, jb