Monday, August 14, 2017

'Deadlines' for Moth


I have this recurring nightmare. I'm at college on the first day of finals. I have no idea where my class is because I haven't gone to a single class the whole semester. I have one class left before I graduate yet I know I'm not prepared. Today, I have my final in a subject I barely understand. I can't afford to fail this class. I don't want to have to stay here and take it over again. I don't want my education to be incomplete. My future depends on it. My husband has graduated and found a job in another city. He has already moved there to get our lives set up. I so desperately want to go with him. I so desperately want to pass this class if I can only figure out which room is the right room and remember one or two details from the heavy tome I read the night before.

Usually, I'm standing in the university halls in my underwear.

I went to Purdue. I did graduate. I swear I did. It was decades ago. It was the era of big hair, Jordache jeans, jelly shoes, fanny packs, and the Rocky Horror picture show. Let's do the time warp again. I know I'm bragging, but bear with me. I'm nervous. I have a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

But in this dream I am there at college all over again. Over and over, I have to graduate from that tight-assed school with a degree that doesn't suit me. I have to prove that I am worthy to go off to live my life with my husband. I don't want to live in a dorm one more year. I don't want to have Freshman roommates. I don't want to go out on a Friday night to keggers and frat parties and beer. Oh my.

I'm fifty-seven fucking years old. I am too old and fat for this shit. I really am. I'm a stay-at-home mom, a housewife, a woman of leisure, except when my husband gets the idea that we need to spend our precious time volunteering. I spent ten years volunteering at my son's schools. I still volunteer there. I spent ten years volunteering for his Boy Scout troop. I'm almost done with that, but now and then, I still get a phone call from a Scout who doesn't know he's supposed to say hello on the phone and tell the person on the other end of the line who's calling and why he's calling. Last Sunday, I volunteered for seven hours in a tiny kitchen helping to feed 127 people at the Forest Theatre's last show of the season. I had a good time. I was busy, but this wasn't what you would call a deadline. None of it is what you'd call a deadline.

I don't really have deadlines. If I don't show up to volunteer, what are they going to do, fire me? If I don't make dinner one night, is my sixteen year old boy and adult husband going to starve to death?

So, here I am. I'm fifty-seven exhausted years old. My son is in high school, practically raised except for the finishing touches.

I don't have deadlines.

And yet I still have these fucking dreams. Over and over. I wake up from them in a sweat. I'm breathing heavily. I want to roll my husband over in his bed and make sure I'm not sleeping in a dorm with an oversized pillow instead.

I wonder if it's God talking to me. Or the "Universe," you know with a capital 'U.' Or maybe it's just the deeper parts of my own brain, talking in its sleep.

"Jules, you're not finished yet," it says in a stage-whisper. "You do have a deadline to meet. A dead. Line. Get it? If you don't get this stuff done soon, you will never be able to do it. Ever."

Did you know that Van Gogh did most of his paintings within four years? He was practically manic, trying to get them all done.

I sometimes wonder if he had recurring nightmares about school. Did he worry about dead lines? Did he dream that he painted in the fields of hay in his underwear?

Finally, after ten years or so of these nightmares, I realized what they were all about. The end of my ultimate education was approaching. I still didn't know a thing, I mean really know. If I was going to take that final step, I knew I wasn't ready. I would never be ready. But I had to take it because if I didn't, I leave one huge thing incomplete. And I never get a chance to complete it.

And so I am here, telling you my story, hoping I know enough to pass, feeling like I could easily fail, feeling like I'm standing here in this hall, in my underwear.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Sewing with Cats

Blitz is standing on my lap while I type. He's purring but he wants both of my hands to pet him so any time I get going with two-handed typing, he lifts one paw out of the embrace of my elbows and taps the keyboard. He likes the cursor, a bug that can move in such tight circles his eyes feel a little drunk.

We could sit here like this for hours, my left hand holding back his paw. What can I do with the cursor to make Blitz's head bob back and forth in a ridiculous way? What can he permanently change in one tap of his paw?

He and I had an adventure yesterday.

See, Mike, Nick and I are going to the Renaissance faire on Saturday and suddenly Nick needs me to make him a tunic. It isn't enough to go shopping once we get to the faire like most people do. No. I have to make him a tunic so he can appear there as if he's this uber-Medieval man who made his own costume from leather and twine.

"You can make a tunic, right?" Mike said. I usually quilt, preferring the two-dimensional nature of a blanket to the three-dimensional nature of covering my butt.

"Mom, do you like sewing stuff like this?" Nick asked.

We were already at the fabric store. The two men had already chosen the fabric, a slick linen while I searched for a pattern I might be able to follow. Nothing from Vogue. I was not ready for Vogue. Nick held out the bolt to me. I'd like to have a skirt made out of this linen.

"I can do that, but in two days?" I said. Mike gave me the secret-code look. It said, 'Look, the boy has expressed an interest in something besides video games. I don't care how much money we spend or how much time it takes for us to support that but you are going to make this tunic, so help me God.'

"Yeah, honey. I like making costumes. I'm not sure about the collar. I've never done a collar before, but I'll give it a shot." I held the bolt out to the sales lady behind the counter, trying to smile faked confidence into Nick's face. "I can figure it out." The sales lady looked at me dubiously.

I probably had made a collar some time in my deep past, but I didn't explain to Nick about the trauma of learning how to sew and restitching seams so many times that the fabric eventually ripped at the seam line. At nine, I could not sew in a straight line to save my life. But this is Nick and I would do anything for Nick, especially if it pulled him away from video games. Mike is working on a leather project with him. At least I don't have to cut and stitch leather.

Fifty-three dollars later, we have the makings and the pattern of a tunic. We could have bought a tunic with a lace-up yoke and puffy sleeves for thirty five. But no.

Yesterday, I woke up early. How the hell would I be able to make a tunic with puffy sleeves and a real collar in two days? I pulled out the wad of Kleenex they use to print the patterns, expecting them to shred as they came out of the envelope. I unfolded them on the pool table. I looked at the directions. Collars. Oh, and I'd have to figure out how to sew a yoke at the neck and turn it right side in. I tried to sew it, turn it, and stitch on the collar in my mind. Mush.

I needed pins. Pins and scissors.

I ran upstairs to get my good scissors and a pin cushion and ran back down. God help anyone who used those scissors for anything but fabric. I ran back upstairs for a pair of scissors to cut the paper pattern.

The nice thing about this sewing set-up that I have is that I get a great workout doing it. The pool table is generally clear enough that I use that as a cutting table for any projects. It's downstairs. My sewing machine is upstairs. This is my stairmaster, forgetting my scissors and pin cushion. Up and down, up and down, until I've done my thirty minutes of aerobics or more.

When I got back downstairs, the pile of tissue was on the floor. Blitz stood a foot away, nonchalant. There was a single hole in the top layer of the pattern.

I glared at Blitz and picked up the wad of tissue. One small piece slid out from my grip and Blitz was on it, all the feigned disinterest gone from his face.

"No, you do not get to play with these," I said. I'm sure he understood what I said, but he's a cat. He had no interest in complying.

I spread the linen out onto the table and ran my hands over it. A skirt is two pieces, a bell and a waistband. Pockets are easy. No. I needed to learn how to make a tunic, one with a yoke and a collar.

The pattern for the tunic had six pieces but I had to distinguish them from the pants, the scarf, and the pirate band that wrapped around the model's heads. I began to cut the tissue with the cheap scissors, separating the six pieces from the others. Blitz leaped onto the table and sat down on the fabric.

"Get off," I said, trying to be gentle as I pushed him away from the pile of already-torn tissue. His naked butt pressed into the linen and he used one claw in the fabric to resist. His intent was apparent. The crinkly paper was a perfect new toy. It would shred into a million entertaining pieces.

I lifted him off the fabric and put him on the floor. I had just smoothed out the fabric again when he leaped back on. So, I moved the pile of tissue to the other side of the pool table and finished sorting them. Before I cut any of this, I thought, I'd need to measure Nick. I was just getting proficient enough with a pattern to add length here and subtract width there. I ran upstairs to get Nick out from under the spell of the television.

Because I was making this tunic for him, he submitted to the measurements. He's growing up. Even a year ago, he would have grumbled at the interruption even if it was something I was trying to do for his benefit.

When I got back downstairs, Blitz dropped a straight pin from his mouth. I screamed. Blitz bolted.

"Nick, I need you!"

Nick and I spent the next half hour trying to coax Blitz out from behind the suitcases in the under-the-stairs closet and examine him ears to tail. Nick held him belly up while I checked his mouth for damage and rubbed his neck and belly to see if he had any pain. I called my vet while I continued to rub, squish, and stare at Blitz. Blitz stretched out and let me massage him all over. The vet said that if he had anything in his mouth or had swallowed a pin, he would be in distress. This cat wasn't in distress. She said we should probably keep an eye on him for the next twenty-four hours just in case.

That cat needed more than one eye on him.

When I got back to the pool table, there were five straight pins scattered around the pin cushion. I was always careful with my straight pins. I had hated getting them stuck in my feet as a kid and always picked up each one whenever one fell. Blitz jumped back onto the pool table.

"Oh, no you don't," I said. He glared at me as I stuck his pointy toys back into the pin cushion and swept under the fabric with my hand for any more. It came out with one pin stuck into it. Great. I would bleed on the tunic before it was even cut. The cats had never messed with my pin cushion in my sewing room. Now, suddenly, it was a toy or a hazard, depending on your perspective. I reached up and placed the pin cushion on a high shelf.

Then, I smoothed out the fabric again, nice fabric.

I gathered tissue pieces from the floor where they'd floated when I'd screamed and Blitz had scattered. There was another tear in one of them. I laid them down onto the fabric, trying to replicate the drawing in the instructions. The front and back had to be cut on the fold. The sleeves would need to be less puffy to fit the rest.

Seth jumped onto the pool table and stretched out on the other end of the fabric, shifting a piece of tissue out of his way. Nice fabric. It would make a good cat bed. I picked him up and put him on the floor. By the time I straightened up, Blitz jumped onto the table and dislodged another piece of the pattern.

I was getting nothing done. Not one thing.

I needed to move the fold in the linen to make it work. I picked each cat up and put them on the floor and lifted the linen by one corner before they could jump back onto it. Tissues floated away. Blitz batted at the long piece of fabric as I tried to move the fold to about a quarter of its width. Before I spread it back onto the pool table with the fold just right, Blitz jumped back up and sat down on one end.

"Neat game," he seemed to say. "Your turn."

I crawled under the pool table and located each of the six pattern pieces. I grabbed the pin cushion off the high shelf and tried to hold it while I pinned the tissue for the front of the tunic to the fold in the fabric. Blitz played with the little strawberry that hung from the top of the pin cushion while I held it.

Just then, Mike walked in the front door. He was home from a hard day at work.

"Hi hon," he said looking from one cat to the other. "You having fun?"

Thank you for listening, jb


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Beautiful Breeding

I feel sunburned. We just got back from Point Defiance after a long walk on the beach. Yesterday, Mike and I paddled our canoe while a bunch of our friends and family tubed down the Snoqualmie river. We took Teddy with us both times.

Teddy gets so much attention when we're out and about. I can't usually whine about it because people will realize I'm jealous. My niece and nephew both like Teddy more than they like me. I'm certain of it. How can a middle-aged woman be jealous of her own dog? I don't know, but sometimes I am. But at least I'm not as invisible in society when I bring Teddy along with me to public places. People initiate conversations, more often with him than with me, but at least I get to interact with human beings.

"What a beautiful dog." The young woman stares at Teddy.

"Thank you," I always say, as if I designed him. Then, gracious as he is, Teddy walks over to her, generously smears clumps of white fur onto black yoga pants.

"She's so soft too."

He's so beautiful, people always assume he's female. I slide right over that, avoiding the stereotype of the gorgeous gay celebrity idol that comes to mind. People don't laugh when I try to make jokes about Teddy.

Teddy really is beautiful, in spirit and in body. I've probably told you how sweet he is. But most people respond to his looks. I get annoy that his looks are more important to people than his personality. He's cream-colored with long legs and fur that has comb lines in it even if I haven't brushed him in weeks. He has a long nose, narrower than a lab, and adorable ears that flop a bit when he walks. He walks with grace. He runs like a gazelle. He is thin.

Just imagine a beauty-queen dog that matches that expensive cream-colored carpet you couldn't afford for the house.

"What breed is she?" She is bent over and doesn't see the woman in front of her at all. I am simply a host, a driver, a dog walker.

"He's a mix. He came from a shelter." I am secretly satisfied to say so. Some people don't want him to be from a shelter.

"No, there's no way you came from a shelter, did you sweetie. No, you're pure as snow. You must be a Husky or a white Shepherd."

"His mother was an Austrailian Shepherd, but we don't know the rest. Mutt, I guess." She glares at me for a second before she returns to petting Teddy. He's leaning into her legs, staring up in mock-adoration. He plays the game. He knows the routine. Adoring fans.

"He could be a Jindo."

"A what?"

"It's Korean, very rare. He looks just like a Jindo. I'm sure he's a Jindo." Designer dogs are in, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Shiba Inu, Akita, Vizsla, German Shorthaired Pointer, Havanese, Goldendoodle. We are surrounded by the best.

"I imagine his other half is yellow lab. They are much more common, especially in the shelters."

"There's nothing common about you, is there sweetheart?" Baby talk. Teddy has his nose in her crotch and she's running her fingers through soft fur on his sides. It's as embarrassing to watch as if she's making out with a boyfriend. I look away.

I hate the baby talk. I suspect that Teddy is not enamored of the baby talk either, but he's got his reputation to uphold. He has the gall to put his head between her legs and breathes in deeply.

I stand there like a third wheel.

"Sorry about that."

"No, it's fine. He's a love." She sighs. She's still talking directly to him. If he were a man, he'd be unsnapping her bra at this point and she'd be a willing partner.

Teddy attracts girls. He loves girls. I think it's because of all the attention they give him, but sometimes I imagine that he was a gigolo in a previous life and has come back in the only incarnation that God allowed that would put him into close contact with as many women as possible.

I want to drag him out of her crotch. It seems rude to keep moving, but we've only managed twenty feet down the trail before she stopped us and Mike is walking far ahead. There are probably a dozen other women on this beach who still have to run their fingers through Teddy's fur and coo into his ear.

"Well, have a nice day!"

"Aw, bye-bye, Baby. You really are gorgeous." Teddy nearly sighs and turns back to stare at her as we walk away. He looks at me as if he's disappointed. I am the consolation prize, the dumpy middle-aged woman he must travel with because I had first possession. I pet him mindlessly. He really is soft. I know he loves me, but these moments make my heart ache. Would he leave me so easily?

Maybe I could sell his services on the beach, finally make some money. I swear, people would pay me for the privilege of walking him.

Maybe I won't. I'd miss my sweet Teddy. Plus, he gets a little tired of all the fawning. Or I try to pretend he does. I imagine it's hard being so beautiful, but what do I know?

Thank you for listening, jb






Saturday, July 22, 2017

Love is the Cure

My little Blitz is so jumpy that sometimes when Teddy jingles his way back inside after a potty break, Blitz scatters and desperately searches for a way out. Then, I watch him flatten out on the carpet, look up and sometimes, but only sometimes, he realizes its only Teddy and he loves Teddy. Teddy has never hurt him. Teddy likes to play with him. Teddy even licks him sometimes. Then Blitz relaxes and goes about his business, weaving between Teddy's legs and swatting at his tail.

Blitz is like that with strangers too, ever vigilant to strange sounds, even on television. Nick has trouble approaching him, but at least he can sometimes. Nick works at it. Whenever someone new comes to the house, the minute Teddy and I trundle downstairs to answer the door, I can see Blitz scattering. He has safe places, inside the couch, between boxes in the sewing room, and under my bed. If he's feeling particularly brave with company, he'll sit under the computer desk and look at them.

Can kittens have PTSD?

It's like the poor guy lived in a battle zone and at any second, the enemy, a dog or a human, can descend and take him out with whatever noise he is making.

How do you cure PTSD in a kitten if he has it?

***

Don't you love the Internet? I just found this site for PTSD in dogs. Apparently, people haven't gotten around to handling hyper-vigilant kittens. But the advice is sound. Make a safe place for them, make sure they get to play, and have lots of patience with them.

So, when my sister and all of the rest of the family come to the house this afternoon after we go tubing on the river, I'm going to lock Bitzie into my room with some yummy food and the litter box so he can feel safe and relax on my bed. Then, when everyone is gone, he can come upstairs and lie on my belly, take a deep breath, and feel the love.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Missing Out

My sister comes to visit tomorrow. Now, I'm kind of glad I cleaned all the bedding, the countertops, the floors, sanitized the litter boxes, and got the carpets cleaned because the cats had giardia. (I didn't have giardia, by the way. I can stop visualizing parasites any time now.) Stuff is pretty much ready for her to see. You know, the sniff test, the cream-colored glove test. I'll have to run the broom in front of the litter boxes for the barefoot-on-the-fake-wood-flooring test. It's a hard life I lead. Truly.

It's not the kind of cleaning I'd do if my mother were coming. Two years ago, when my mother came to visit, Mike announced that we were going to have the flooring redone for half the house. We hired landscapers. And we rented a storage unit. He talked about revitalizing the kitchen but realized we didn't have time to get the permits.

For my sister, things will be more relaxed. She can witness some of my teetering piles of books. She can gaze at my stately weeds.

The sad part is that Blitz is going to be on red-alert-invisible mode for the whole week. She hasn't met Blitz yet. She probably won't. Today, when the carpet cleaners arrived, he skedaddled under the bed downstairs and didn't come out until two hours after they left. When he finally showed his little face, he touched one paw to the damp carpet and ran back into the far bedroom for another hour. He's in his cat tree recovering now.

My sister isn't going to get to see how he rolls onto his back with his tubby belly wiggling and flattening out on the floor. My sister isn't going to see how he hangs his head upside down to play with me from the highest perch on the cat tree. My sister isn't going to see how he jumps onto my lap on the couch and lines himself along the length of me and always, always puts his front right paw on my left breast. Then, he stares into my eyes and make the tiniest of sighs when he's been thoroughly petted and just wants to sit with me feeling the love while I watch television with Mike.

My sister is going to miss all that.

Occasionally, when one of Nick's friends is over and they're focused on the video game in front of them, Blitz will be brave and walk behind the couch and cuddle up with my feet as I sit at the computer. But that's only when they ignore him. That's only one extra person in the room. That's only for relatively quiet people who aren't talking double-speed and almost double-volume.

My sister and I aren't quiet. Neither is my niece. That kind of chatter, even though I'm part of it, will drive Blitz from the room, down the stairs, and into the farthest, darkest, and quietest part of the house. He will search for a tunnel escape.

Poor kid. My sister would have loved the way he talks to me in the morning when I'm not feeding him fast enough. Blitz is never going to feel the joy of being adored by my sister.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, July 16, 2017

When Aliens Arrive

Nothing to say.

There's a blue sky outside. I just got home from an outdoor musical. It was lovely and funny and ....

I'm exhausted. I'm telling you that I have nothing to say. I'm beyond tired. I still haven't heard back from my gas/bloating doctor. Something is still brewing in my gut. I don't want to talk about my gut. I feel like a helium balloon. I'm ready for bed. It's not quite 6:30pm.

The cats are all relaxed and feeling great. I think Blitz had always had a painful gut before now. He used to groan every time I picked him up. He still groans, but it's different than it was, an argument not a complaint. It has no oomph. The last time I picked him up, he didn't even bother making a noise. Isn't that sad? To think that life was only ever having pain and a bloated gut and not knowing that anything else in life was possible. I'm glad that he's happier now. I really am.

The problem is that Blitz has been extra active lately, whacking Seth, jumping out in front of Teddy and scaring him, and waking me up, I suspect, at four in the morning, so I can fill his belly with yummy kitten food and treats even though I'm supposed to be weaning him to ordinary cat food.

Did Seth teach Blitz to move around nearly silently, but not completely silently in the wee hours so I wouldn't realize who woke me and then appear, all cheerful and purring, when I walk up the stairs? For the past three mornings, I was, bleary-eyed and exhausted at 4:23 am, but too hungry to go back to sleep. I made myself something to eat. Why not feed the kitten since he's here and acting so sweet? Look at his adorable self. Rolling on the floor in front of me. Look at Seth, waiting to be petted and hoping to eat some kitten food. Why not? Why not feed them now?

Somebody's waking me up at four in the morning. It's almost two hours earlier than I need to get up when school starts. But this is summer. I have no alarm clock in the summer. Yet, there I've been, sitting up at four in the morning wondering if I just heard a noise. I really should not feed cats when I get up in the morning.

Who was it that got me started feeding cats in the morning? I should feed them at dinner time. I should put my foot down. Can I remember to put my foot down tomorrow at four in the morning when I wake up?

No. If I don't feed them, they'll keep me up until noon when I really have to drag my ass out of bed and run my errands.

When aliens arrive at our house, they will assume, based on the natural servitude that occurs among the members of the household, that cats run our society, that humans are mere slaves put on this earth for the one purpose of making cats as supremely comfortable as possible. The cats even have pet dogs to toy with and tease. Humans are a mere instrument of whim. Water, kitten food, cat treats, cat beds, large cat beds that the dog is allowed to use when the cats aren't lying on them, sofas, pillows, blankets, and warm laps when necessary. Humans provide them all. Humans are encouraged to come and go but merely in the effort to bring in more cans of kitten food and cat treats and also to remove refuse from litter boxes.

Humans are allowed to sit on the cat's sofa, but that is the best positioning for long massages behind ears, under chins, and along the spine for good alignment. Gentle grooming of fur is also encouraged. The cat will inform the human when he's finished.

Yes, if aliens arrive on our planet, they'd better hope they are cute enough to run our society in this way, to make willing slaves of humans for their own purposes.

Maybe aliens already did arrive on our planet. Maybe one is dozing in the cat tree, languidly watching birds outside, and the other is stretched out on a heated padded lap.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, July 14, 2017

Not Quite Finished with Giardia

I am done bathing cats. It was traumatic for both of them, yowling, clawing, and eventually submitting to the injustice of being totally wet and worse, being foamed with perfumed and medicated shampoo. The second time, Nick helped me manage. You need four hands to wash a cat, maybe five. Plus, Nick is very good at calming cats.

Giardia treatment required one bath at the beginning and one at the end. So we washed the cats twice within a week. In the interim, I coaxed two cats to eat wet cat food covered in medicine they didn't like for six days. I washed the covers of three dog beds, bedding for three people, throw pillows, blankets, and two cat beds the cats seldom use. I sterilized two litter boxes twice. I put dog and cat dishes into the dishwasher daily for six days. I disinfected a cat tree and unwashable foam pads for three dog beds. I got going with the bleach and ended up sterilizing my sinks and countertops just in case. The cats don't jump up there when I'm looking, but what about when I'm not home? I never did steam clean my floors. I know I should have. I was just tired. I would have been tired simply bathing the cats. Even the cats were tired after we bathed the cats.

I don't believe in giving cats a bath unless there's a specific reason. This was specific enough. Giardia, a parasite, living in their intestines, eating their food, making them feel sick, taking control of their bodies like aliens. I felt sick to my stomach just thinking about it. I've washed my hands about a thousand times in the past six days. I used a whole bottle of bleach. I went through a half bottle of perfumed medicated cat shampoo. I washed and bleached five towels that might have been infected after cat baths, twice. Except for the floors, I was thorough.

After the second baths, I began to relax a bit. The cats had finally eaten all of their medicine. Nick and I decided to bring both cats outside on leashes to dry on our partially completed deck where they could lie in the sun. Nick said it would be nice for them to dry their fur in the sun. He was right.

Blitz was sure he didn't want to go outside. I didn't want to argue with him, but Nick kept saying he'd like it once he felt the heat. Blitz clung to me around my neck as I carried him out after we got Seth and Teddy set up outside. Poor baby Blitz. Being outside must have been traumatic when he was a tiny kitten. Feral cats don't have it easy.  Feral kittens probably learn that death is so near, so casual. I could feel all that in Blitz's grip.

I sat down on a chair with him still clinging to me. Nick tied his leash to the barbecue. I began to lean back, to look up at trees swaying against blue sky, to listen to birds singing. Then, Blitz relaxed a little and slid down to my lap. We sat. Nick sat at the rough edge of the deck and let his legs swing back and forth between the joists. Then, Blitz looked at Seth on one side and Teddy on the other and Nick on a third side. Each of them was enjoying the light, the heat on the recycled plastic boards, and birdsong. The deck is three-quarters complete. There was enough room for us to sit together and stretch out a little.

Finally, Blitz jumped off my lap, squatted flat for a moment, looked from Seth to Teddy to Nick, then he rolled onto his back. He stretched his paws out and let the gentle heat soak into his damp fur. Summer weather is nice in the Pacific Northwest, but don't move here unless you enjoy ten months of continuous rain. Personally, I love the rain. It's getting a bit dry here for my tastes.

Still, it was a good day to wash cats. And even better news was that both cats were cleared of giardia. That was my reward for cleaning the litter box five times on the last day of their medication, then digging around when a cat finally pooped. It was my reward for scavenging turds the size of marbles so that lab people at the vet's office could look for alien creatures under a microscope.

I try not to think about parasites in intestinal tracts. I try. The cats are clear. They're clean. All our bedding is clean. Their dishes are clean. Nearly everything is clean.

But I'm not quite done with the whole thing. After a talk about issues with my roiling gut, my doctor recommended that I get tested for giardia. She didn't even tell me it was psychosomatic, all that thinking about parasites making me sick to my stomach. She just stood there and handed me a kit.

Joy of joys. Now, I have to poop in a cup and bring it to the lab.

Thank you for listening, jb


Friday, July 7, 2017

Giardia Round Two

Do not wash an almost yearling kitten in the sink.

He was too big. He pushed half out of the sink while I washed the other end of him. He buried his head in my elbow while I washed his shoulders. Because I was battling a parasite, I had to leave the shampoo in his fur for what I hoped was five minutes while he yowled, wrestled, and occasionally took a hopeful leap away from me.

I hate giardia.

I haven't given Blitz a bath since he was tiny and rolled in poop while I was out of the room. That night - yes, it was in the middle of the night - I filled the sink with warm water and he lounged in it while I massaged the crusty bits out of his fur. Then, I rinsed him in warm water while he looked up at me as if he were amazed at the depth of my love. Drying him off was as simple as taking down a small towel and wrapping him in it while I stared into his eyes and rubbed the wet off his whiskers.

Or at least, that's how I remember it.

This was so much worse. I'd lost my sink plug. The water was too cold at first. He shook and water went all over a stack of books I hadn't thought I needed to move. He finally got resigned to the treatment but then I was wary that he'd take a wild leap when I let my guard down and held him from underneath with a grip on both front legs. .

Have you ever seen the video of the cats lounging in bath water?

I hate those cats.

Blitz was pathetic, his pink belly jiggling under thin wet fur when I rolled him onto his back. At least he let me rinse him under his shoulders. I hope I got all the soap out. There was enough water to wet the front of me, so I think I did.

When I brought him upstairs, he stepped out of the towels, shook a foot, stepped, and shook another foot, glaring at me as if I'd tortured him.

Then I got out the cookies. He glared at me while he chomped his cookies.

Then, before Seth could get a clue, I picked him up for round two. I knew I couldn't wash Seth in the bathroom sink. He's about as big as the bathroom sink with an added muffin top. By the time I was done with Seth in the tub, I had a set of claw marks in my right thigh, I looked like I'd puked and peed my pants. I had medicated soap in my hair and on my glasses and water ran across the counters, the floor, and splattered the far wall. Forget the books. I can read wet books.

"You're a good kitty, Seth," I had repeated over and over in what I had hoped was a soothing voice.

What I really meant was, "You're a he-devil cat from the Bronx with titanium claws, the strength of a pit bull, and the sonic voice of doom."

Round two. Cats win.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Pain in the Neck

Do you all want to watch this trainwreck?

This morning, after going back to sleep and finally getting eight hours of sleep amid giardia dreams, I woke up feeling great for just about five minutes.

Then, my neck seized. 

I can't look to the right. There's some rubber band in my neck that keeps stretching to the breaking point whenever I look right and sending waves of zingers through my extremities on that side.

Remember, this was the day I needed to:
  • help Mike rebuild the deck
  • bleach litter boxes and associated utensils against giardia
  • wash all bedding in the house where a cat might have rested his butt
  • drag unwashable stuff like the cat tree and fancy dog beds outside to sterilize in the sunshine for four days
  • schedule carpet cleaners
  • steam clean vinyl floors
  • sterilize fake wood floor some way that won't ruin it
  • run food and water dishes through the dishwasher
  • wash one reluctant dog and two reluctant cats
  • walk the dog
  • buy groceries
  • coerce cats to eat white mealy stuff in their wet food
  • coerce the teenager to help rebuild the deck

Shit, I couldn't even drive. You really shouldn't drive if you can't look to your right.

What a pain in the neck. My symptoms are a metaphor.

I bought groceries but I used up my good graces with Nick by asking him to drive me to the grocery store. At first he was reluctant but he got pretty quiet when he saw how much it hurt for me to go around left turns. That pretty much eliminated any chance he'd help with the deck though, especially since it was hot and he ran two paper routes for a friend yesterday and didn't stop once for water. Don't tell Mike I messed it up for him.

So, I managed to clean the litter boxes, but I clogged the tub drain with cat litter I thought I'd scraped out of the litter boxes. Don't tell Mike.

Don't tell him that I'm pretty sure I got rid of giardia on the counters, but the cats don't walk on the counters after long and complicated training. I was too freaked out about the parasites that I couldn't help myself. Don't tell Mike I wasted my time. 

Don't tell Mike I didn't wash any bedding, call any carpet cleaners, help with the deck, drag unwashable stuff out into the sun, steam clean, sterilize, wash a reluctant dog. Don't tell Mike I couldn't wash two reluctant cats.

I spent most of the day groaning on ice on the couch and trying not to change positions.

Oh hell. I think Mike knows. I wonder if I used enough bleach in the tub to kill the little parasites I poured out there?

Thank you for listening, jb




Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Leaning Slightly Away

Blitz has giardia.

Great, just flaming great.

The creatures are going to board there on vacation in a week and all of them needed some kind of vaccine or test in order to be let in. Blitz only needed a fecal test. I didn't even manage to get a fecal test for Seth yet.

On Sunday night and Monday morning, I cleaned litter boxes five times just to get one clean sample of poop, put into a plastic container and bagged in Ziploc for extra safety. Five times in twelve hours. Five.

So you can see why, when they couldn't get a sample on Seth at the vet's office, I procrastinated the five-times litter box cleaning.

I got the message about giardia last night, too late to call back. So, I looked it up on the CDC website. It's only a small chance that a person can catch giardia from a cat. Small, not nil.

My stomach began to bloat immediately.

"Mike, do you think I have giardia?"

"Probably not."

"But it says here at the CDC that the chances are small, not nothing."

"You probably don't have giardia."

"I bet I've got giardia. Parasites, little creatures swimming around in my stomach, eating my food."

"Have you lost any weight?" he asked looking away from the television at me.

"No, but I just started being lactose intolerant just a few weeks ago."

"You probably don't have giardia."

"But what if I do? Blitz sleeps on me. He rolls in cat litter and comes into bed with me. There are little bits of cat litter on my side of the bed."

"Did you get any cat litter in your mouth?" 

"Ew, no."

And with that, Mike went back to watching his movie. He'd already seen the movie, something with Matt Damon in it. My stomach turned over in my gut. I scooched a little closer to him on the couch for comfort. It might have been my imagination, but it seemed like he leaned away from me, just a tiny bit.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Don't Wake The Kitten

I don't really have a story for you today. It's early. Everyone else is asleep. The kitten pounced on my butt at 5:47 am.

Yes, that is within three minutes of when the alarm should go off when I have to get up to make Nick's lunch for school, but we haven't been on that schedule for two weeks now.

Or have we?

The problem with the single pounce is that instead of falling back to sleep, I realize I have to pee. No, I can not wait.

I lie there for a while, arguing with myself about whether or not I can get back to sleep with my bladder as full as it is. If I roll over to get more comfortable, I'm toast. Is a bladder on one side? Is it? Because when I'm on my right side, I can never get comfortable. There's just too much pressure and then I absolutely have to get up. Now!

So, I carefully put my feet on the little rug by the bed. The cold of the fake-wood floor would wake me up even more. I slide my feet into my slippers, accidentally putting my left foot on part of the cold floor to catch my balance. I feel a little more awake now.

I try to get out of the bedroom without waking Mike, not bumping into anything, turning the doorknob to close the bedroom door. I have to open it again to make sure the kitten isn't still in there waiting to pounce on Mike's butt when I leave. And then the silent doorknob turn. Be very, very quiet. (We're hunting wabbits. Do you remember that cartoon?)

Why doesn't the kitten pounce on Mike's butt at  5:47 in the morning? Why is it always my butt?

I try not to lose my balance as I lean over to lift the lid of the toilet. When Teddy was a puppy, I convinced everyone in the family that keeping the lid down would keep Teddy from licking their faces with toilet-water mouth. To seal the deal, I told Mike that when the toilet flushes, an aerosol of pee water floats into the air and coats his toothbrush if the lid is up when it flushed.

Is that true or was it some anal housewife touting the number of germs in your bathroom sink and on your toothbrushes? The bleach bitches.

Anyhow, the lids have been down since I said that. My real reason for wanting the lid down is that if somebody forgets to put the seat down I could accidentally sit on the dirty naked bowl and fall into the toilet water a little. I hate falling into the toilet water.

I try not to clink the lid on the back of the toilet too loudly. Noises.

[details deleted - except you should know the kitten thinks it's nice time to get petted while I'm there. The little fucher woke me up for this.]

There's cold water coming out of the tap when I wash my hands. Crap, the cold water wakes me up even more. Once, I tried not washing my hands, but ugh.

When I silently turn the doorknob again, get my slippers back off, and tuck down into the warm covers again, I know I'm in trouble if I start wondering what day it is, what I need to do, what I should be worried over for the next hour.

Most of the stuff I could do are too loud for the time of day. Mow the lawn. Let me tell you something right now. We all hate the person who gets up at six in the morning on a Sunday and mows his lawn, even if the kitten did pounce on our butts at 5:47 in the morning and we're already awake. The same goes for vacuuming, running a load of mildewed laundry, and using the drill driver to remove more screws from the deck.

I make do with getting out of bed, silently turning the stupid doorknob, and padding out to the living room so I can add stuff to my list. I always have a list.

Don't you?

I have to find my glasses first. Then, I stare at the list, thinking about the things on the list that I could do at this hour.

It's Sunday. Sunday at 6:13 in the morning. I do not have to get going on my list at 6:13 in the damned morning on a Sunday.

I grab a couple of blankets, take off my glasses, and curl up on the couch. There must be something on TV, Netflix, maybe. My eyes have to focus to see the settings on the television. I locate my glasses again and squint at the television to get through the menu of who's watching, past all the stuff they think I might want to watch and finally land on something on my list I've seen often enough that I might be able to fall asleep to it. Why do they scramble the order of those lists? I want my list on top, not the list where they suggest a bunch of movies because one time I watched a crazy series about suicide.

The movie starts, a quiet talky movie with decent music. I take my glasses off.

The sound is loud, set to stun. A zinger bolts through my spine. I grab for the remote and try to find the volume button without having to focus on the tiny letters. I drop the remote.

Let me tell you remote designers this. I should be able to press the volume button with one hand without upsetting the balance of the stupid remote. The volume button should be in the middle, not at the top. In fact, the whole thing is designed wrong. A little brick. What the hell? My hand isn't shaped like a little brick.

The remote should be shaped like a small artist's palette with as many buttons on the back as on the front. Or maybe it should be a mitt so you can wiggle fingers inside to do every operation without changing your grip. I don't friggin' know. It should be better. It should be natural. It should be a one-handed operation. It should be completely intuitive so I don't have to find my glasses and look at the tiny buttons to find the volume button. 

As I roll off the couch to pick up the remote, I whisper to the remote-control designer as if he's here in the room. I get the volume turned down to a mumble.

When I get settled back in, I realize that I'm hungry. I sigh, get back up, shuffle into the kitchen, and grab a glass of milk to tide me over. The cold slides down my throat. I shiver. I go back to the living room and snuggle back into the blankets. It takes a couple of minutes to get warm.

I'm just falling asleep when the kitten jumps onto my lap and makes himself comfortable.

An hour and three-quarters later, Mike walks into the room. I'm asleep on the couch. Netflix is asking who's watching. My glasses are askew on my face. The blanket has slid off my shoulders and is wadded up over my legs. When I open my eyes, my throat is dry so I know I've been snoring.

The kitten is stretched out on the blanket in the groove between my legs. He is warm and so incredibly comfortable.

"The kitten is sleeping," Mike says. He holds a finger to his lips. "Don't wake him up."

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Running Toward the Noise

Yesterday, Seth clawed at the screen door because we were all outside working on the deck. He likes the deck, but I figured he wouldn't like it out there during demolition, the banging, the drilling, and the loud music playing.

When we started, a chipmunk had gotten disoriented and run back and forth across the deck before disappearing around the corner of the house. Then, he ran back, jittered back and forth like a squirrel on the double-yellow line with oncoming cars in both directions, and ran around the corner again. I hoped and prayed we didn't find a nest under the deck. That would be tragic.

No, I didn't let Seth go outside yesterday. Even wearing his harness cabled to Teddy's run, I was afraid he'd get disoriented like the chipmunk and get lost around the corner of the house. Our house is too close to the highway for outdoor cats.

Twenty years ago, our neighbors killed a kitten every six months by bringing them home and letting them run outside. The kids got used to telling me they'd lost another kitten. It was agony for me. I swore we'd never have an outdoor cat. Never.

This morning, when I got back home from picking up new books at the library, I found Mike on the deck, drilling, banging, and listening to loud music. Seth stood on the deck observing while wearing his harness and cable.



"What are you doing out here, Seth?" I asked.

"He wanted to come out," Mike said. I imagined he liked having company, even a cat.

"Is he happy?" I was doubtful.

"Seems to be."

I looked at him. He looked back at me. What a crazy cat.


What a crazy cat.

This is the cat, I remind myself, that runs toward any loud noises in the house, especially when it is his burly teenage kid, Nick who's making them. Seth has always been that way about Nick, running out and jumping onto the banister whenever any of his friends came to visit.

Seth acts more like a dog than a cat. He's friendly. He's in any room that's active. He will demand what he wants, special baths with a warm wash cloth, to be picked up and carried around to be petted. Seth was the first one to tell a human to pick him up to put him on the washing machine where we keep his food away from Teddy and his allergies.

Still, it surprised me that Seth would want to go out to the deck with all that banging, all that drilling, and the loud music.

There he stood, watching Mike work and sitting on a little tuft of grass that managed to grow in the deep shade behind the house. When I came out and started banging too, Seth jumped onto the deck and watched me work.

I should have known he would run toward the noise.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, June 30, 2017

Seventeen Tight Old Screws

My God, it's hard to get twenty-five-year-old screws, water-sealed annually with for twenty years, to back out of their holes. We're trying hard to keep the frame of the deck, so we don't want to simply go all demolition on it with sledgehammers.

My forearms hurt. My neck has a crimp in it.

I've unscrewed a total of four screws. Four.

And that took me an hour once I googled how to remove those old screws. Set the screwdriver in the slot, whack the screwdriver with a hammer, then carefully try to turn it. When it's moving and backed out enough to grab, use a pair of pliers to unscrew the screw. If you think screwing is a delicate operation, you should try unscrewing. The drill driver isn't the way to go.

My mind just went off in another direction. Pardon me while I self-correct.

Right. The screws came out okay once I could grab their heads and twist. Sometimes the screws broke off. Those had to be marked so we don't run new screws into broken screws later. That would be a mess.

Thankfully, the helpful teenagers I hired, Nick and his friend Brandon, unscrewed a bunch of the easier ones before it got too hot outside and I offered to get pizza.

"I'm bored," one said just as I put in the online order onto my app. He was lifting a loosened board off the bench.

"Screw you!" said the other holding up a drill driver. It took me too long to catch on. That was when I realized I needed to hydrate.We all did.

I had pictured us getting all this done in an afternoon, happily unscrewing one screw after another as I imagined my old deck undressing down to its bones and getting ready for the new one to take its place.

No dice.

After the boys quit, I went back outside to do my work in my slow but semi-effective way.  After four screws, I got too hot, came in the house, and turned on the air conditioner. Then I stood over it for a while and let it bathe me in cool air. Four fracking screws.

Crap.

****

I drank three glasses of ice water and went back outside. I hate when a problem gets the better of me.

I made slow progress. I figured out that if I used the back of the hammer to whack the wood and shred it all around the screw, all I had to do was grab it with locking pliers and gently unscrew it. I peeled three drill bits and one screwdriver trying to figure this out. If the screw wouldn't turn with the locking pliers, I whacked its head with my hammer. If it broke as I twisted it using the pliers, I either grabbed the nub with the pliers and unscrewed it or scribbled on it with a sharpie so I'd remember to work on it later.

Mike came home about the time mosquitoes started biting. He'd bought new toys to help, an impact wrench and a powerful drill driver that vibrated stuff loose as it worked. The impact wrench was useless, but the drill driver pulled out about four nails in the time I unscrewed one. Still, Mike left a couple of tough ones for me to do. Then he went inside to rest.

He had worked all day, remember?

I went back to work. Basically, I need to shred a bunch of two by fours so I could get at the screws. I needed a damned chisel.

Then the mosquitoes. The franking mosquitoes.

When I came into the house, it was well past dinner time. I had trouble walking after I'd been squatting on a low footstool for so long. A blood blister had formed on my thumb where I pinched it in the pliers and a blister on my index finger broke open before I knew I even had a blister there. I was a sweaty, dusty mess. In all that, I'd probably pulled out seventeen or eighteen fricking screws.

Beans and rice for dinner. I asked Mike to open the cans of beans because that motion was too painful for me to manage.

The good news is that if you have a tough screw, I'm the one to back it out, as long as I can whack the hell out of the wood all around it first. Maybe I should try a Dremel tool. Shoot! What about our Dremel tool? I could just draw a little groove around the screw and put the flunking hammer away.

It's going to be a joy to start again tomorrow, a freaking joy. I'm going to wake up feeling like shit. My back will ache, my neck will be crimped, and my blisters will be aggravated at having to be rubbed. I hope I get more than sixteen screws pulled out by the time the mosquitoes come out tomorrow night.

I've got little bits of wood in my bra, bits of my frinking wood. I hate renovations.

Thank you for listening, jb



Nostalgia for A Rotten Deck

My deck behind my house is rotting through. When the roofers laid a tarp down on it, Nick actually fell through one rotten board. Thankfully, he didn't get hurt. And my chair keeps sinking into another board.

It's time for us to redo the deck. It really is.

So, why am I getting all nostalgic over losing my old deck with its moss and soft boards?

In just an hour, we're going start taking everything off the deck, the barbecue, the shelf of plants, my flowers, the hummingbird feeder, the table and chairs, and the bird baths. Then, we're going to unscrew all the planks to see what we have left of the structure. It should be okay since it was built with pressure-treated wood, but it might need a couple of new boards. The fascia of the steps needs a new board.

I wonder if Mike is going to replace the deck lights. I used to love having lighting on the deck. He might just leave that part out. I probably would, for simplicity. It stopped working about six years ago.

I'm also going to miss sitting on my deck while we're redoing it, yet I can have the guys bring my table and chairs down to the front of the house so I can relocate there for a bit. I wonder if the hummingbirds will relocate with me if I bring their food down.

I hate upheaval. I know my deck, with the recycled plastic surface, will be easier to walk on and will be easier to maintain. All I have to do when it begins to grow moss is pressure wash it. Easy peasy.
I'll especially love not having to watch where I put my feet for fear of falling through.

It's time.

So why am I mourning my old deck?

Mike designed and built this old deck for me, but he's going to rebuild the new one. In a week or so, I'll have a brand-spanking new deck to sit on, a lovely new place for my flowers, table and chairs. The birds won't care, will they?

I doubt it.

So, I don't get it. I'm nostalgic for something that's going to be improved in just a week. My old one was broken. I want to think I'll love my new deck.

What if I don't? What if it just doesn't feel like home?

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, June 25, 2017

There's a Cat Behind the Front Door

Blitz does not want to go outside.

Oh, he's drawn to the screen by flies and moths on the other side. He'll claw at it until I tell him to stop. And he occasionally stares at the birds in the birdbath, but he doesn't want to go out there. It's scary out there. The minute I slide the screen open to go out, he's gone, deeper in the house where I won't kick him out. I try to tell him I'm not about to kick him out, but he's still afraid.

Seth is the cat who wants to go outside. Whenever I water the flowers on my deck or refill the hummingbird feeder, Seth sits at the other side of the screen and states that he intends to come out. I wish you could hear it, not a plaintive tone to his meow. It's a statement, "You will bring me outside now."

If I have time to sit with him, I'll come in and pick up his harness. As soon as he hears its jingle, he's on the back of the recliner waiting for me to figure out which way his harness goes. He's impatient for me to loop it over his head and lift his foot through, left foot or right, I can never remember. Eventually, I get it all untangled and strapped onto him and then we go outside where I snap him onto Teddy's cable and he can walk along the back side of the house while I prop up my feet, read a book, and listen for the hummingbirds. Sometimes the cable gets caught up in weeds. You should see Seth, almost falling over, like a cat that doesn't like the dress his little girl dressed him in. Then, I have to walk down the slippery ramp and rescue him from the weeds. Most of the time, though, he sits and stares at the birds in the bushes. He definitely doesn't want me to go inside. At this point, he's spent eleven years inside our house with only occasional forays outside on a leash, so he isn't happy being outside on his own. These days, he gets tired sooner and drags his heavy cable back up the slippery ramp and stands at the door until I let him in. Sometimes, if I bring out a pillow, he'll sit in the chair opposite me, enjoying the sunshine and staring at the hummingbird feeder. I'm amazed that they feed with him so close, but they do.

Then, we go inside and snap off the harness and he's good for a least twenty-four hours before he's trying to sneak out the door again.

Bringing groceries in from Costco is a hazard with Seth waiting at the front door. I will use my key and open the door just a bit. His nose is there, just waiting for an opening to escape. Shit. Even if he's not there at first, he'll appear after my first trip into the house with an armload of stuff.

Costco takes at least five trips in and out of the house, sometimes more.

For each one, I have to balance my load, turn the knob to the door, check for the nose, reposition the load to block Seth's exit, then bulldoze my way in with some large object blocking his escape. Then, I need to put my load down onto the bench opposite the door and hope Seth hasn't found that ten seconds gap and escaped to the hazards of a nearby highway or a pack of coyotes in wait. If I'm successful, I have to either find his kennel and shove his unwilling body into it or go through this balance and dance process each and every trip into the house with my Costco loads.

If he actually escapes, I have to take a deep breath, say a prayer, and unload the rest of my Costco purchases. It will do no good to try to capture him when he first gets out. So then, I'll go into the house and put away all my stuff, hoping beyond hope that Seth doesn't make it down to the highway before I get back outside. The balance of time is precarious.

This makes Nick furious. There's a chance Seth might get hit. There's definitely that chance. But the difference is that if Nick goes outside to find Seth, he'll come right to him. If I go out to get Seth before he's ready to come inside, he'll let me get within a finger's reach, grin, and run away from me. That only pisses me off and extends the game.

If I go inside, Seth quickly gets uncomfortable at being outside alone and he'll leap into my arms when I come back out, as long as I've left him out there long enough. The problem is that what is long enough for me, no time at all, is shorter than what is long enough for him which is ten or fifteen minutes. Going out multiple times only extends the game.

The worst is when I have some reason I need to bolt off again and I'm sweaty from unloading $372,16 worth of groceries, I have to arrive at a meeting in fifteen minutes, and I have just enough time to sit in the car beforehand with the air conditioner on and gather my wits. When that happens, chasing the damned cat around the back of the house to bring him inside is miserable and nearly impossible. Seth can feel my need.

Mike says I should leave him out there and just go, but I've never had the nerve. How would I explain to Nick that his beloved cat is flat because I didn't have ten extra minutes to chase him around the house before my PTSA meeting? How?

Life comes into perspective when you start thinking about how someone could die out there.  So, over and over, I do it the same way. I'll do it the same way for the next six or seven years if I have to.

If I have a meeting with you and I'm ten minutes late, breathless, and sweaty, you'll know I've been chasing Seth through the weeds at the back of the house again.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Steamed

Blitz learns from Seth's example.

For all that, using the litter box was a good lesson, as was staying inside the house when the dog goes outside is a help. We live by a highway. And we have coyotes. The highway is more lethal but either one would do the job.

I also like that Blitz learned that in the evening, he's supposed to lie on someone's lap. That way two-thirds of us have a cat to pet at least part of the time while we're watching movies.

When I was a kid, I had a white winter muff that had fur inside and out. It was just a little tube, big enough for both of my small hands to knot together inside at one time. I loved my muff and tried to keep people from realizing that my hands weren't in the least bit cold in the springtime but that I liked to surreptitiously pet my muff like it was a tiny kitty I was allowed to carry inside the house. All of our cats when I was a kid were outdoor cats. Eventually, my mother informed me the season for winter wear was over and she packed away my sweet muff with ratty mittens and various boots and toboggans into a cardboard box.

Did you call your winter hats 'toboggans?' I always wondered how they were related to the great sleds. When I was a kid, any knitted winter hat was called a toboggan.

Somehow, I didn't see how my muff belonged with ratty mittens, boots, and toboggans. If my muff had had googly eyes, I would have cried when my mother closed the cardboard lid. I came close as it was. That was my kitty, my bunny, my sweet muff.

I never saw my muff again.

So, when I sit on the couch watching a movie, it is with joy and a teeny bit of sadness for my lost muff that I can tuck my hands into warm kitten fur. Blitz is still a squiggly kitten, though, and I seldom get to pet him during a whole movie.

But Seth did teach him to jump onto a lap to get petted.

There are things I'm not so happy that Seth has taught Blitz though.

Did I tell you that Blitz is convinced that it is our job to lift him up onto the washing machine any time we're around when he's hungry?

Seth taught him that. Both are perfectly capable of jumping up to their food on their own, but Seth just glares at someone in the kitchen until they lift him and now Blitzen has learned to sound so pathetic when it's his turn. His tiny meows turn into an elongated 'meoooooowwwwwwww' when I ignore him. I'm certain it's a cat version of nagging. It just goes on and on until I do my job.

Then, there's the waking up game. Seth made sure that Blitz took over wake up calls when he was very young. If it's a Saturday and I'm snuggled deep in my covers, Blitz begins to leap on and off my butt. When I try to focus my eyes, I can see that it's only 6:03 in the morning, or sometimes 4:15 in the morning because it's nearly summer solstice and the sun rises earlier now. Seth only takes over if the communal food dish gets down to one layer of kibbles. That is an emergency. Then, at any hour, the whole house wakes up with his repeated siren call. I blame Mike because he gets up and puts kibbles into the bowl. I'm convinced the reason our house harbors two insomniacs is that we have these cats who live here and one tenderhearted man who will feed cats at any hour.

And now there are the baths.

I'm sure I've described how my shower time has been significantly cooled and extended because Seth opens the pocket door and comes in. Then, as all hot air escapes the room, he gets between the shower curtain and the liner and insists that I bathe him. This involves using my wet hand to wipe him from head to foot minus his butt because that is just too gross for either of us to contemplate, even when soap is available afterward. Then, when I've finished and dried myself off, I am to use a dry towel and sponge up all the wet fur so that Seth is nicely cleaned and relatively dry. He does this every other day.

So Blitz has begun to expect a bath every other morning as I'm trying to stay warm in my shower with the pocket door half open and all the steam escaped. This means that I add even more minutes to every shower and significantly lowers the temperature of the room to a chill as I stand naked in it after I'm out.

I look forward to about eighteen more years of this chilled and extended naked time after my showers because the old cat has taught the kitten how to pry open the pocket door just in case I thought about trying to close him out before I build up steam in the room.

That's what I get for thinking it good that the cat teach the kitten how to behave in my house, eighteen more years of early wake up calls and eighteen more years of being in a shower devoid of hot steam.

Thank you for listening, jb


Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Dystopia in the Kitchen

I kind of hate, yet kind of love when I get so involved with an audiobook in the kitchen that I clean everything in sight and then just sit on the footstool next to the litter box and listen. Blitz loves the ends of audiobooks since he rolls around on the floor in front of me and gets his belly rubbed. I never met a cat who loved to have his belly rubbed so much. He has a blubbery little belly with dots and dashes coded into his fur.

I kind of hate listening to these audiobooks too because the afternoon is waning, gray and damp, and I haven't taken Teddy out for a walk. A day has a different aura at 4:30 in the afternoon when I haven't been for a walk, rather dreary. It doesn't help that my book is a dystopia, an apocalypse.

I kind of love audiobook days in the kitchen because my mind swirls with the story. One disk remains and I don't know how the band of musicians and actors are going to survive the post-apocalyptic battles against crazed survivors. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I promise I won't give away the story. I hate when people tell me how it ends. You're going to want to listen to this book. Your kitchen will never be so clean.

I'm a sucker for a good post-apocalypse story and this one is good. I got drawn in by the virus, the very real possibility that our civilization could be brought down by a crazy flu bug.

The plague, the 1918 Spanish flu, West Nile, Avain flu, Swine flu, H1N1, ebola.

For the H1N1, Mike and I were nearly frantic. I remember the fear, birthed when Mike first mentioned a shortage of vaccines then the way that fear accompanied me in my gut like a tumor, growing heavier every day the vaccine was still unavailable. Kids in the school were sick. Substitute teachers were scarce because teachers were sick. A school near us closed for a week. We tried to keep from infecting Nick with our fear, but I know he felt it.

Nick had contracted pneumonia five times between the ages of four and nine. He was in the highest risk category. He had already been given two kinds of pneumonia vaccine, the normal one and the one they give to the elderly and those with COPD. It was hard to reconcile the sturdy kid who practiced karate against the one with a right lung that filled with fluid and threatened to drown him every year between February and April, RSV season. I had listened to him bubble as he breathed. I knew how fragile life could be.

The whole family carried tiny bottles of hand-sanitizer during the fall of 2009. My hands bled in the cracks, they were so chapped. Every time any of us came home, we stopped at the sink and lathered up. Mike taught Nick to sing the birthday song and to keep lathering until he was done. I still mindlessly sing the birthday song when I wash my hands, but it was serious then, a time to send Nick back to do it all again if he was too quick. Privately, Mike and I talked about whether we should keep Nick out of school until after he received the vaccine. There was a shortage. We couldn't get him vaccinated soon enough.

Finally, there was the day, I drove Nick to the Department of Health forty miles away and told the nurse about Nick's condition. It was the first day the vaccine was available in our area, two months before it became available to the general public. At first, the nurse looked dubious, as if I were trying to cut ahead in line. But I had brought Nick's list of meds, two steno pads filled with lines indicating the medicine, the dosage, the date, the hour, Nick's peak flow, and O2 saturation. The second steno pad was nearly full, the first completely. I didn't have to explain. She flipped through the pages and quickly left the room. When she came back, she had two shots prepared on a tray.

"I don't need one," I said. "I have a good immune system."

"You don't want this virus anywhere near your son. You have to get vaccinated too. Everyone in the family should get vaccinated." I wanted to cry.

And so we both got shots. I held Nick's hand during his and he held mine during mine. And the weight of fear lifted a tiny bit that afternoon. Nick had never been so happy to get a shot in his life. We stopped for ice cream on the way home. Two weeks later, when Nick's immunization should have been complete, Mike and I quietly celebrated in the living room after Nick had gone to bed. I felt so light, so happy. I hadn't realized just how heavy the weight of that fear had been.

And so it was easy to get drawn into Station Eleven, the way the virus ran through a flight of passengers and overwhelmed an ER. I still remembered the fear we'd had with H1N1, but I watched it as a distant fear, like the thrill of reading Stephen King back when I lived on the second floor of the old mansion built in 1886. Another crazy virus was possible, but I didn't carry the weight of it in my gut, not too much anyway. I knew I had tucked away a bottle of hand-sanitizer somewhere, but I'm not sure where.

Okay, I'll admit. I'm still a little bit afraid whenever they mention on the news that it's going to be a bad year for the flu. But people survived on Station Eleven, and now they have to survive the crazed survivors. I'd better get started on dinner. I have one disk left to hear.

There is hope still, even after an apocalypse.

Thank you for listening, jb




Friday, June 16, 2017

Big Tyson Goes to the Dog Park

"Hey!" the man called out from the middle of the double gate entrance at the dog park. "Does this dog belong to any of you?" He stood in the small enclosure with a woman and two dogs.

"Not mine!" I yelled. Other people looked around and shouted that he wasn't theirs either. Nice people that they were, these two stood there between the two gates for a while, not quite knowing what to do. They petted their fat antsy poodle mix. The other dog, a powerful sleek orange dog danced by the gate. He wanted to come in.

"Just let him in," the man with the Aussie puppy shouted. "He'll be fenced in in any case."

"He looks like a nice dog," the woman with a pit mix shouted.

And the people opened the gate. Pandemonium ensued, but only the best kind of pandemonium. Happy dogs stole balls, pulled on sticks, and wrestled with each other. A short dog humped the big orange dog's face. The big guy rolled over, sprang up, and bowed. He looked powerful enough to beat the crap out of a dog that just humped his face but he wasn't that kind of guy.

Chase ensued and a string of dogs raced across the green grass with the mountain as a backdrop behind them.

"Did his people ever show up?" the man with the poodle mix asked.

I looked around. Connections between people and dogs were loose, but most of the dogs looped around to their owners from time to time. No one claimed the friendly orange dog. I looked at people across the field. Each human silhouette trailed a dog's.

"I don't think he has an owner here," I said. "How did he get past the first gate into the park?"

"He was already there when we came," the man said. "I thought he was having a time-out."

"Come here, Buddy," he said and held out his hand to the friendly orange dog. My dog ran over to him to be petted. Then another dog and finally the orange one came to be petted.

The orange dog pulled against the man when he grabbed his collar and finally went down onto his back in surrender. That only made it harder for the man to read the etchings on his tag.

"Tyson! Good boy."

Tyson leaped to his feet and ran in a circle around the man.

"Maybe we should call if there's a number on his collar," I suggested.

The man grabbed for Tyson's collar again. The two of them wrestled in an awkward tug of war for a minute, twisting the collar around the man's fingers. Then, the man yelled out a phone number.

I forgot the number as soon as he said it. And I didn't have my phone out of my pocket either. He let go of the orange dog's collar and tried to ignore my mumblings while he dialed the number he'd just yelled out.

"Hello?" he said. I could only hear half of a conversation. "Do you know Tyson? ... Yes. He's here at the dog park. You can? Okay. See you in a bit."

I was suddenly glad I'd stayed a few minutes longer than I had time for.

"There should be a children's picture book about Tyson's solo trip to the dog park," I said.

The man's wife said, "Mom, you were too busy, doing laundry and dishes, and so I thought I'd take a trip to the park on my own. I am a big dog now. I can go all by myself."

I laughed. 

And Tyson ran across the field with my Teddy and a fluffy black dog named Pixie. He was wiggling on his back with Pixie when a woman came through the gate without a dog of her own.

I laughed again. "Your dog came to the dog park all by himself," I said, still laughing. Tyson ran over to her and wiggled a stubby tail. I didn't really think to look at the woman's face.

"Thank you," she said to me.

"I didn't do a thing. He was the one." I pointed to the man. She walked over to the man and I watched as she quietly thanked him, her voice hitching as she spoke. Her eyes were wide. She stopped for a minute, bent over, and hugged Tyson. He kept on wiggling and licking her face as she clicked a leash onto his collar and walked with him out the double gate.

The man looked at his wife. "She couldn't even speak on the phone, as if she'd been crying. She couldn't talk just now either."

"Good job, hon," his wife said. "A happy ending for Big Tyson Goes to the Dog Park."  I hope she writes that story.

Thank you for listening, jb


Monday, June 5, 2017

Pick Me Up

Did I tell you that Blitz is getting a little chubby. His brothers - I've seen them - are sleek tigers, beautifully marked, and a little too full of themselves. Blitz, on the other hand, is desperate for food and love and is so shy that he disappeared almost completely for two days in the house while it was being reroofed. He was traumatized by day and became a klingon by night. I couldn't move my feet under my chair without inadvertently kicking him. I worried that this old folding chair I sit on might collapse and he'd be found flattened beneath me, the only reason I didn't break my butt yet again.

I never told you I broke my butt as a child? In fifth grade, a kid who said he liked me pulled a chair out from under me when I was sitting down. Boom. Busted. Butt surgery.

The kitten?

Right. The kitten.

But Blitz is recovering nicely from reroofing trauma. He finally sat on my ankles tonight while Mike and I watched a movie. Moonlight. Almost tragic. Seth had been sitting like a king on a pillow on my lap.

Sometimes I hate people, even when the people are cats.

Blitz had sweetly waited until Seth was settled. Then he crept up to my ankles, no further, and laid his head on the edge of Seth's pillow. As long as I was sitting quietly with my hands on Seth, he was happy. I could barely reach Blitz anyway the way I was reclined, but I'd lift up now and then and pet him.

It's good for my abs.

It almost broke my heart when Seth turned around and began to lick Blitz on his head.

How sweet is that? He loves the little guy. (Even with Blitz's little belly roll, he's much smaller than Seth. Seth has a large frame. I blame the malnutrition when Blitz was a kitten.) Seth spent four minutes licking Blitz, telling him how much he loved him. Blitz even began to purr.

Then he hissed at him.

What?

It's the story of poor Blitz's life, to be well loved by the man-cat and then hissed at and tossed aside.

Somehow, Seth leaped off my lap in a huff and Blitz actually stayed. Usually, it's the other way around. I decided to push my luck when I held Blitz under his armpits and dragged him up onto my belly. What a noodle. He goes all limp on me every time then leaps off the minute I let go. This time, he stayed. He even purred.

In a perfect world, we would have realized that Seth wanted to be an only cat. In a perfect world, Blitz would have been adopted into a quieter household where he would be cherished and could learn to relax more easily.

But it isn't a perfect world. Blitz knows he's loved, despite everything. This morning, he drank tuna juice. Why put that stuff down the drain when all the cats come running the minute Mike opens a can? Blitz comes with me to bed in the night and sometimes we even play soccer with a dog kibble in the kitchen before Blitz eats it and I put the rest of the kibbles away so they don't pile up under the oven.

Oh, and there's one perfect thing. Blitz has convinced every member of the family that he can't jump onto the washing machine by himself. That's where we keep cat food so that Teddy doesn't sneak it and get hot spots and ear infections from his allergies. I've seen Blitz jump. I know he can do it. And Blitz may have been given kitten food twice that day already, but he'll pace and cry in front of the washing machine and either Mike, Nick, or I will pick him up, hug him, and put him onto the washing machine for another snack. Tonight, Nick even said that he wasn't all that hungry, just wanted to be petted and push his head into Nick's chest.

We are slowly being trained, even Mike.

Once, about a month ago, Mike told me he had no intention of changing his habits in order to accommodate a kitten. None.

But I've seen him pick Blitzie up and put him on the washing machine for a snack. I've seen it with my own eyes.

The man is being trained. We're all being trained.

I just wish that Blitz would learn to hold his elbows out when I pick him up. He still noodles every single time and nearly slides out of my hands. I keep worrying that I'm going to drop him on his butt. I'd hate to break his chubby butt. Please, no chubby-butt surgery.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Telling It Like It Is

You would not believe what I just did.

On my way home from tutoring at school, I had dinner with a friend who is a teacher. I like to think she's rubbing off on me. She tells it like it is.

Afterward, I needed to pick up some milk at the Farmhouse market. It's a nice little market full of pretty produce, good quality meat, and almost everything else I might need for dinner. I love the market. I'm not the only one. It gets busy when people are on their way home from work. The parking lot was mostly full.

One guy in a sparkling blue truck had parked at an angle, taking up two spaces. What an ass. I tried to park my car as close to his bumper as I could, but unfortunately, I drive a very short car and he wasn't going to have a bit of trouble backing out of his double-spot. Who the hell did he think he was?

I fumed. I backed up a bit. My car was still too short to block him in. I hate people. There's no place in our society for people who act like they're entitled. The arrogance. I got out of the car and glared at the pretty blue truck.

Then, a middle-aged man stepped out from the front of his truck. He'd been smoking a cigarette. He ground out the butt with his toe. Then he stepped up into his truck and backed out of his double-spot while I gave him a dirty look.

I turned to stalk into the store, but, dammit, I had something to say. This was my chance to say it. I spun around, marched back, and knocked on his passenger-side window.

I had no idea what I was going to tell him but it had to be good.

The man rolled down his window.

"Excuse me," I said. No, no, no, this was not what I wanted to say to this man. "This parking lot just isn't all that big and there is no room for people to take up two spots the way you parked. There just isn't enough room. So, just don't. Okay?"

I stopped talking.

Just don't?

Just don't be an ass. Hell, I didn't say that. I didn't say anything that I meant to say. Not one word about how everybody hates people who act all entitled, how everybody wants to key the length of a truck parked diagonally in two spots but most of us won't because it's not right, how everybody would like to punch the lights out of a truck that takes up two parking places. I didn't say any of it.

Excuse me.

I blew it. I took a deep breath in and tried to maintain my glare. Maybe I could start over.

"Yes, ma'am," he said and he nodded.

I turned and shuffled into the grocery store. Maybe I still had something to learn about telling it like it is from my teacher friend.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I'm Not on Drugs

I strained my elbow. Did you miss me?

It's tennis elbow and I don't even play tennis any more. I never was very good at it anyway, but I loved the idea of tennis. Mike and I played a little when we dated. It was one of those things I just went along with whenever he brought it up. Tennis anyone?

Sure why not? Now, it makes me nostalgic. 

The real story is that I've been hanging out in the kitchen listening to The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman. He's one of those writers who writes beautifully even for speeches and introductions and rants.

I talk back to him when he pauses on the audiobook. Blitz hangs out in the kitchen with me, usually in front of the sink where I'm working, on his back with his fluffy dots and stripes showing. Maybe he thinks I'm talking to him. Maybe I am talking to him. I don't know.

Neil says things like: it's necessary to make mistakes; write what you love; read the damned comics before you put them into that clear plastic sleeve; and listen to these attributes of his favorite authors.

I love when people talk about their favorite authors. Some I had read and some I hadn't.

Isn't it amazing how two people who read totally different books can still be avid readers? There are that many books in the world, enough for a bunch of us to be able to share completely new old books whenever the subject comes up. I love that. I also love that my stacks of books teeter in piles around my house. I have books on the back of my bed. I have books stacked in the window of my bathroom. I have an audiobook in my car and one in my kitchen. Books clutter the table on my side of the couch and lie double-stacked in bookshelves throughout the house. I currently have a book under my pillow. It's true, Dog Songs by Mary Oliver. I love being surrounded by books. I'm sure I won't live long enough to read them all but I can try.

Neil Gaiman made me cry too. I wanted to hug him and say, 'yes, yes, I know what you mean about those authors you love.'

At that point, I'd finished loading the dishwasher, had wiped down the counters, cleaned the litter box, did the last load of laundry, rearranged the silverware drawer, and then I just sat on the footstool in the laundry room and listened. Blitz was certain I was sitting there by the litter box for him. He loves lying on the rug, the one covered in scattered cat litter. At least he isn't rolling in the cat litter any more, not that I've seen anyway.

I kiss that kitten. Don't blame me for wishing he weren't such a dirtbucket.

So, as I sat on my footstool listening to Neil Gaiman read, Blitz rolled back and forth on his filthy rug.

Rub my belly.

Rub my belly.

Wait, don't rub my belly.

And I realized I was crying because of the joy of Neil's words and also because I struggle with my own words. Actually, writing is easy. Editing is hard. Editing is critical, turns the words from grape juice to wine. But editing, sitting down at the screen full of words and getting the shape of them just the way I want them - that is hard.

I have trouble with the glut of words and what I should do with all of them.

I hate when people come up to me and they tell me I just have to write this crazy story that happened to them last week because I must be looking for a subject to write about.

No! I have an abundance of subjects. Write your own damned book! I have my own passions that burn through my bones. I can't write your story.

So, I sat on the footstool and rubbed Blitz's back and patted his paws, crying, mourning my age and the fact that death could come and I might not finish writing. Neil's words made me ache and then brought a brand new story to mind.

No! Not a new story. And I felt compelled, when so many other stories await, to write out the bones of it. Moss and a crater and taking over the world. Then I went back to the footstool and listened so more to Neil speak about meeting his favorite authors. Stephen King's tribute was amazing. And funny. It made me feel less alone to hear that some souls just feel better when they write. And Neil spoke about Ray Bradbury. Ray fucking Bradbury. Dandelion Wine.

Yeah, that.

Does Neil Gaiman know he's that author for so many of us? I've given is book The Ocean at the End of the Lane to about four people now, describing it as 'ethereal.' Mike keeps telling me that I don't have to buy books for my friends when it's not their birthday. I will buy more by the end of June. Don't tell Mike. And I'm so relieved I haven't read everything Neil has written yet. There are still new stories for me to anticipate.

Eventually, I got tired of squatting on the footstool. My elbow ached for ice. I turned the sound up, moved to the couch, iced my aggravated elbow with Blitz sitting on my ankles, and Neil read me a story. When Blitz looked up at the ceiling, my eyes followed his. Nothing was there, just textured white ceiling and sky through the skylights. Blitz looked up again. I couldn't keep from checking.

Haha. Made you look.

Dirtbucket.

Did Blitz know more about people reading and what happens to them than I did? Was Neil up there, a speck of dust, haunting me with his words? Was I too blind to see? Only a cat can see a reader.

I swear, I am not on drugs. I'm not.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Reincarnated

I woke up with Blitz's shoulder pressed into the palm of my hand. I hadn't fallen asleep that way. He was further from me when I fell asleep. He had shifted, while I was unconscious, to having as much of his body as possible touching my hand.

Everyone needs to be touched.

Yesterday, I had stopped in at Petco to get a couple of cans of kitten food. Blitz won't eat the stuff I bought. I bought a case of it and he'd happily chowed down a third of it. Then one day, I put a heaping spoonful into a tiny blue and white bowl I'd bought from Uwajimaya. Yes. This kitten eats from lovely bowls. I hadn't planned on it, but I'm a woman who has interesting rocks I found in a crystal bowl my mother gave me. She would be appalled if she knew.

And that one day, Blitz would no longer eat the kitten food that was so yummy the day before. Note to self - never buy the same kitten food twice. Never ever buy a case.

Happily, Teddy snuck into the kitchen later on and wolfed down the awful stuff.

I'm still stuck with two-thirds of a case of kitten food that the kitten will no longer eat. So, I headed to Petco to try something else.

At Petco, I always stop in to see what cats need to be adopted. If there are no attendants, I talk to them and stick my finger into the tiny holes if they want to be petted. Sometimes they want that and sometimes they are too frightened. I get that. People are scary. You can't just trust a person because he comes up to you and talks quietly into your ear. People are more complicated than that.

Yesterday, when I went to look in on the cats, an attendant had a cat out of her kennel. She was gorgeous. I knew her. At least I knew her in a previous incarnation. She was my angel.

"Can I come in?" I asked. The sign said they weren't open for visitors for another hour.

"Sure. This is a rest period for the cats, but come in anyway." Was I a prospective adopter? She wouldn't want to lose someone ready to bring home a cat.

And the cat came over to be petted. And petted. And petted.

I held back tears.

During my freshman year in college, my roommate announced one day that she was going to the Humane Society to adopt a cat.

"But animals aren't allowed in the dorm rooms," I said.

"I know. So, you won't tell anyone."

She was adamant and so I was not surprised that afternoon when she came home with a gorgeous cat. The cat had long luxurious fur. She had a white bib and feet and gray and tan calico. She had sharp green eyes like my roommate. They were perfect for each other, two of the beautiful people. My roommate named her Angel.

Within a week, Angel had peed on my pillow twice and broken the perfect clay pitcher my sister had made for me. You should never bring anything really nice to a dorm. Roommates and their cats were certain to ruin them for you.

Angel, my roommate told me, had come from an abusive home. She only peed on my pillow because she was afraid.

But I'd been asleep at the time. What the hell did she have to be afraid of while I was asleep? So that night, when my roommate was asleep and Angel snuck over to my bed to presumably squat on my pillow, I grabbed hold of her. I growled a little and whispered, "If you have any intention of staying in this room, you will stop peeing on my pillow. Forever." She stared back at me.

Then, I petted her long fur and told her she would be okay here. If she stopped the peeing.

And you know what? She never peed on anything except into a potted plant that I liked ever again.

She still broke things though, a small mirror my sister had made, a replacement pitcher, a vase. If I was studying too much and not paying sufficient attention to her, she'd push something breakable. I'd look up. She'd stop. I'd look back at my work and she'd push it again, closer to the edge of the desk. I'd look up, glaring at her. The edge of my vase was hanging off the desk.

"You wouldn't dare."

"I would." And she'd push it a little more.

Angel was interested in gravity. And the center of gravity. When she pushed it one more bit and the center of gravity hung too far over open space, it toppled off the desk and crashed in such a lovely way, pieces scattering across the floor.

That got my attention. Then, as I cleaned, Angel would thread through my feet and hands to get all of the touching that she needed.

She was a needy child. Regular touching wasn't enough for her. You had to put both hands into the job. You needed to stare at her with love and adoration while you petted Angel. Angel had to be the center of your universe at least four or five times a day. After about six months of staring into her eyes this way, I became Angel's person. It was inevitable. My roommate loved her and needed her, but Angel belonged to me. Or, more clearly, I belonged to Angel, at her service until death do us part.

There was a marriage of sorts. It feels good to be bonded to another creature in this lonely world. To her, I was beautiful no matter how hard my roommate worked to make me feel fat and stupid. Angel knew better. Angel snuggled into my sweater drawer and seldom crossed the room.

And she hadn't changed a bit in her newest incarnation. She still demanded two hands and a deep hypnotizing gaze. She stayed interested in being petted long after another cat would swat your hand and walk away. She still loved me even though death had taken her away from me and I couldn't care for her properly while she was gone.

I looked up at the attendant.

"I can't take her home. I really can't. We're full. We have two cats and a dog already." Angel was trying to hypnotize me. I could feel it.

"She doesn't like dogs."

I didn't correct the woman. All cats love my Teddy. All cats are the boss of my sweet Teddy and they know he is absolutely no threat to them.

But our house is truly full. Mike would not let me bring home another cat. He didn't really want the last one, the one who snuggles up against the palm of my hand while I sleep. If I brought home another cat, Mike would start calling me the crazy cat lady. I would hate that.

I would hate it because it's true.

Thank you for listening, jb