Saturday, July 25, 2009

Guest Post Starring Me

I know you've been waiting a long time for more of my wit and wisdom. Truly, I'm working on it, but the sunbeams have been so intense lately that I've been spending more of my time seeking shade. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy this story from Friday Fiction, a blog I've been following recently. (I'm posting it here with permission from the author, so stop worrying about it. I have a personal relationship with him.)

Let me just say before you begin reading the story, that I'm not sure I am in total agreement with the author's description of me as "doughy". That said, read on:


A warm breeze announced the Spring afternoon by blowing open the lazily-shut door, bringing with it dust-mites, spores and other allergens which made Sophie, the little white dog, sneeze. The outburst awoke Simon, the orange cat, who had been dozing in a sunbeam and he regarded the little white dog with utter annoyance. He wasn’t an old cat by any means, but he was old enough to demand silence from the other animals in the house. The only one who outranked him was Mama Sydney, the golden shepherd, but she had found a sunspot of her own; even if she had heard the sneeze, she chose not to acknowledge it.

The newly-awakened cat let the breeze tickle his whiskers and a primal urge to hunt overcame his desire to remain in the sunbeam; it made his tail twitch. Sophie saw this and whimpered, pleading with him not to break the rules. She looked at Mama Sydney to assert her authority, but the big dog was dreaming of running and her legs pawed at air.

Simon stuck his tiny face out the doorframe and hesitated just long enough for Merrilee Buchanan to scoop him up and close the door, shutting off his chances for freedom. “Not today, Simon,” she said and plopped him next to Sophie, who gradually relaxed as things returned to normal.

The animals watched Merrilee, following her to the cupboard with hungry eyes. She scanned the shelves and, to the animals’ disappointment, closed them without deciding on a snack. There was little need for snacks lately. The cupboard closed with a soft thud that still resonated throughout the empty house; Sydney woke from her dream and perked up her ears.

Merrilee poured herself a glass of water and watched two hummingbirds from the window; they were fighting for a spot at a sugar-water feeder. The craftier of the two birds would distract the other by feigning interest in a hanging pot and zip over to the feeding hole when the other bird came to check it out. Once the duped bird realized what was going on it would rush its beak into the tricky bird and the cycle would start again. “Oh dear,” said Merrilee and slid the glass door open, scaring both birds off. She stepped out into sun and Sophie sneaked past her into the fenced backyard. Sydney stood at the door but decided it was too hot to venture outside. The sun felt good on Merrilee’s face. Inside, the phone rang and Sydney looked from Merrilee to the phone, worried that she wasn’t going to answer it.

“It’s okay, girl,” said Merrilee, stepping into the cool house. The caller ID revealed it was her middle son, 3,000 miles away. She picked up the phone. “Hey sweetie.”

“Hey mom.” The voice hesitant and serious. He probably wants money again. She looked at Simon, who gave her a disapproving look. Don’t give him any money. It’ll mean less food for me. She picked up the doughy cat and held him while she cradled the phone between her head and shoulder. After some small talk, her son came out with it: He needed to borrow some money to pay a neglected cable bill. She set some conditions on which she would help him while the cat in her arms gave her a smug I told you so look. At the end of the call, her son said he loved her and she smiled before hanging up the phone. “What do you know?” she asked aloud to the cynical cat. She put him down and he found his way back to the sunbeam.

She went to the computer to check her email, which was only filled with chain letters from her offsite coworkers, intended to be funny but were only meh. Office humor. The wind knocked the chime outside her window and the beautiful sounds filled the office; her witty responses would have to wait for another time. She turned her computer off and went back to the kitchen to make a glass of iced tea. All the dishes in the sink were dirty; she put her hands on her hips and addressed the little white dog who bounded in from outside.

“Sophie, who left this mess? Hmm?”

The dog cocked her head to the side; her version of a shrug. Merrilee concluded that the mess couldn’t be anyone but hers and felt bad for implicating Sophie. Picking the least dirty one from the sink, she washed it and held it up against the sunlight—it sparkled like in a commercial. She filled the glass with water and was about to throw the tea powder in when the phone rang. It was her youngest son.

“Hi dear.”

“Hey mom, I’m at the academic advising building and I was wondering if you had any of my FAFSA information. They need it for this thing…” He trailed off. Simon jumped up on the counter and began to stick his paw in the full glass of water.

She held the phone away from her face and yelled “Simon, no!” The cat startled and knocked the glass off the counter. It shattered on the tile and the dogs ran over to see what the commotion was about, sniffing the little shards. “Oh,” she paused “damn!” She pushed the animals away from the glass with her knee. “I’m sorry honey, I’m going to have to call you back.”

“But mom.”

“Is this an emergency?”

The youngest son sighed, “I guess not. I’ll call you later.” He told her he loved her and hung up the phone. The dogs began to sniff the broken glass again. Merrilee took both of them by the collars and pulled them into a bedroom so she could clean up the mess. The two dogs began to whine immediately, their cries muffled behind the closed door. When she came back, Simon was sitting on the counter, perched above his mess and quite proud of himself.

“Who gave you permission to be on the counter in the first place?” She sprayed him with a water bottle and he scampered. Fraidy cat, she thought. The cell phone in her pocket went off; a text from the oldest son—he wanted to know if she was planning on having him and his wife over for dinner that night.

The glass cleaned up easily, perhaps to Simon’s disappointment. Once the big pieces were gone, Merrilee looked at the floor from all angles for reflections, just in case she had missed smaller pieces. Behind the closed doors, the dogs began to bark. “Alright, alright. I’m coming!” Sophie and Sydney bounded over each other to see if there was anything left to sniff but found nothing.

The text. Merrilee wiped her brow; the afternoon had gotten too hot to be cleaning up after a cat. She took her phone out and carefully typed the letters out to tell her oldest son that tonight was not going to be a good night for dinner plans. That she had a lot of work to do.

She poured herself another glass of tea. Outside, the birds were fighting again and Sophie began to scratch at the glass door. Simon was asleep in his sun again, content with the afternoon he had caused. The late-afternoon sun had dipped low enough to send long sunbeams across the living room carpet.

What the hell, thought Merrilee and took residence in Simon’s neighboring sunspot after downing her tea. Just a quick catnap. She stretched out in the bright square and immediately felt what the big deal was all about. There was a small thud as Sydney gracelessly collapsed into her own nap in the sunbeam; her fur tickled Merrilee’s face. The little white dog found her spot by Merrilee’s head, out of the sun as to not impede on anyone’s territory.

The phone rang many times. The sound shook Merrilee from her sleep to find that even Simon had made his way into her arms; his purring matched the ringing. She smiled and returned to sleep with no intention of answering the phone.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Nature's Toys

Sammi's losing weight again. It happens every summer when he goes on the Catkins Diet. He goes out all night on the hunt, eats disgusting rodents from the wild, then crashes in the first available soft spot to sleep away the day. My people have noticed, too, and it doesn't make me happy. The jokes about Sammi's weight--"Put on your back brace, Ryan, before you pick him up", "Did you hear the thunder last night? Oh, maybe that was Sammi jumping down from the counter"--are not so common, and he's actually getting a lot of that "positive" attention. Not good for a cat, in my opinion. Let the dogs lap up that crap.

Not that I'm opposed to sleeping in the day, mind you (See previous post on sunbeams). But he IS showing off, and getting lots of attention for it with this weight-loss gig. I can hunt as well as the next wildcat (excluding Winston, of course, who only hunts his own tail), but I'm a strict Kibbletarian when it comes to intake. I mean, really: Does Sammi have any idea where those chipmunks have been?

What he doesn't appear to understand is the value of a mouse as a toy. He needs to be brought up to speed on our catch-and-release program, which allows all of us the pleasure of participation. When I watch him through the glass door, tearing the head brutally off his latest prize, I can only think what a shame it is to waste such a potentially amusing little jester. A potgut is far more useful as entertainment than as a meal. They're just so messy when you eat them.

But Sammi is clearly playing his own game, and doesn't appear to be invested in the maintenance of the kitty culture I've established here at Tranquility House. I'll have to just wake him up speak to him.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thinking Inside the Box

I have a thing for boxes. When I see a box, I feel compelled to sit in it. So what?

Boxes, baskets, open suitcases, drawers, you name it--they're all boxes to me, inviting occupancy. I don't get what the big deal is. My people think it's funny: I sit in a box, and they get their cameras, or make jokes about sending me with the UPS man, or taking me to Buffalo. But they don't.

There is no good reason to sit in a box, but there is no good reason to not sit in a box either. The box is just there. But when you're in a box, it's so easy to just be there, doing nothing. My people don't seem to get it; they never do nothing. For them, it seems there is always something to do. So I don't think they know how to enjoy a good box.

I think people are generally opposed to boxes. I hear them saying they don't want to be put in a box. I see them flattening good cardboard and carrying it to the garage. What a waste! I hear them saying, "Think outside the box." That's ridiculous. A box is the best place to be to think because there's really nothing else to do in the box.

I've heard Canada has Boxing Day in December. I don't know what that is, but it sounds like something I might enjoy. Maybe I could go to Canada to experience Boxing Day. Perhaps I'll take that flight to Buffalo after all. Is that in Canada?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Getting What You Need

I've seen a lot in the news lately about people feeling panicked about the economy, or losing their jobs, or losing all the money they have stashed away in their retirement funds. It's crazy, when you think about it...getting all worked up over paper and numbers and such. I like to play with a paper ball every now and then, but otherwise, I find paper to be largely useful for defining a space to sit on, or tearing to shreds to get a person's attention, or pushing off the desk just for fun.

If you want to talk about panic, the only thing to really worry about is if there will be enough food at the next meal time. I get a little worried when I start hearing the cup scrape on the bottom of the kibble container, but more food always shows up sooner or later in those thick blue paper bags (another good use for paper) and it's easy to nibble a little hole in the corner if you get really hungry.

I've determined that there's really only one way to get what you need: Make sure you bite the ankle of any person who enters your feeding area, whether it's mealtime or not (just in case it might be). Sometimes people can be really stupid; they don't notice what you need, even if it seems obvious. You look them right in the eye with The Death Stare, and still, they go about their business as if you're not even there.

I prefer to ensure success by giving a little reminder bite. This isn't something that would actually hurt anyone, or require medical attention or reporting to the county animal control. It's just the most powerful means of communication you may have, given the language limitations and all. People usually jump a little, squeal, say something I can't repeat in good company, and reach for the scoop. It works like a charm...every time.

Who needs assertiveness training? I say, "If you've got teeth, bite."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Quality of a Sunbeam

Today was a good day for sunbeams. I found them in some of my favorite places; I enjoyed much of the morning and afternoon in a lovely beam on the bed in the green bedroom, then wandered out to the deck for the last rays of day. I can't tell you enough how glad I am that the cold white stuff is gone from the yard. The dogs can have it!

People don't spend enough time in sunbeams. They sleep during the dark hours, and leave the house in the early mornings, just when the rays are choosing their favorite house spots. Then the people come back to the house when it's almost dark again. So gone from the best parts of life.

When testing a sunbeam, it's important to ensure that the fur on one's tummy is adequately heated. When it reaches the right temperature, it's time to rotate to the side, and then to the back, then to the other side, and around again. The only reason to move from this spot is if the sunbeam moves (I'm not certain why this happens), or if it happens to be time for Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Early Lunch, Late Lunch, Afternoon Snack, Dinner, or Dessert. (There is also Late Dinner, Bedtime Snack and Midnight Snack, but there are no sunbeams during these events.)

So what good is a sunbeam to a person? It seems so simple, but if I must explain, here you go: You can't really control a sunbeam, so you just have to find it where it is. Put yourself where the sunbeams are every day, and your life will be instantly better, and you will finally be happy. If the sunbeam moves, MOVE with it. Duh.

Perhaps tomorrow we'll discuss what to do when you're hungry?