Winning

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He glanced up at the contestant on American Idol and smirked. 

He knew the winning strategy.

It was simple, start singing like a little cod and end up bellowing like a big old tuna.

That’s just what I would do, he thought.

He laughed aloud as he continued to develop secrets to success. 

The perfect sweater

It was the perfect sweater

Soft, purple, cashmere

luxuriously covering her thin frame

smoothing out sharp, jutting edges

She felt warm and royal

until a gust of cold air pushed through her cube and touched bare skin

where only purple cashmere should make contact

A small hole created by separated fibers

chewed and passed through by a moth on its way to tastier things in her closet

like the perfect wool suit

Brownie Gets a Suitor

Brownie cat now has a suitor. 

I peeked out the window this morning to say good-bye to Brownie before I left for work.  She already had her breakfast and few pets on the head.  Usually by this time, she’s sitting pretty as you please, with her tail wrapped around her paws and peering into the window.  On a warmer day, she waits for a snack or to press up against the window purring.  On colder days, she hunkers down in her box, with an eye towards the window, ready to slink out if she deems it worth the effort.

However, on this particularly crisp and freezing morning, I was met with a punch-in-the-gut type of surprise.

“Oh my God!” I screamed and panicked as I tried to open the sliding glass door.

A big, fat tom cat was outside, swishing his tail and harassing the little cat inside of the box.  There was Brownie, cowered down, in the temporary safety of her cardboard box; while the tom cat lapped up her water and took a mouthful of her leftover kibble from breakfast.  He was taunting her, walking back and forth, while she continued to hold her position inside of the box.

I could only see her face and green eyes, wide with fear and terror at this awful cat, strutting about and claiming the patio for his pleasure.  He was about to do the same with Brownie, if he could break into her box or catch her dilly-dallying about in the snow.

As for me, I was filled with rage that this intruder and bully would terrify my little cat, eat her food and drink her water. 

We don’t want no scrubs around here, in the borrowed words of TLC, and that goes for this big damned bully of a cat.  Finally, I got the door open and unleashed my fury on that he-ball of fur.  I won’t describe that scene, other than, it got ugly.  

As he ran off, I shook my fist and screamed after him, “Don’t come back, you scrub, or else!”  

The cat stopped at the road, turned his thick neck, and looked at me with an evil swish of his tail, as if to say, Or else what?     

By then, I was running late and upset about what would happen to my poor little Brownie cat as soon as I left.  She was alone and mostly defenseless with just a set of claws, and a cardboard box to her name.   I wondered at where I should draw the line and how to best protect her.  Then the lingering thought began to plague me that my husband had warned of: one stray leads to two strays and behold, a colony is born.

This has brought to light a deep fear, perhaps he is right and a cat colony is on the brink of formation on our back patio.  It could be an unstoppable situation as I still can’t catch Brownie to take her to the vet to get spayed.  I can’t stop feeding her because it’s the middle of winter and unless a little martyr-minded bird takes mercy on Brownie and sacrifices itself, she’ll starve.  Not even trash is edible after an hour at negative five degrees.  What if she tells her cat friends and more come, or worse, she had relations with that cat, and soon we will have kittens?       

Right now, I know just where to draw the line.  It is with Brownie, my outside cat, my pet and my furry little work in progress.   If only I could convince her to come inside, away from the cold and the suitors, before it’s too late and we have 7-12 little Brownies.  

The Brownie Report: On (not) taming a stray

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Brownie appeared one week ago, mewing and begging outside of the sliding glass door. 

She was spotted a few times sleeping in the seat of an old chair on the patio during the summer and fall, when the weather was nice and delightful.  Back when it was a fine time to be an outside cat or even a homeless person.  The little cat might consider that period of time as the ‘good ol’ days’ or her personal Golden Era, as the earth met all of her needs;  little birds and trash for snacking, lawn/patio furniture for sleeping, trees for scratching posts, and the entire outdoors for scooting her behind.  

Likely, she congratulated herself everyday on escaping from someone’s apartment thinking something like, Oh you clever cat.  Good for you.  No one to tell you where you can’t sleep or scoot your butt. 

She was absolutely certain the universe would continue to provide, never anticipating the cruel and cold Indiana winter that was to come.  Then the seasons changed, as they always do, cooling the days and chilling the nights.  Frost on single blades of grass led to snow over everything, and there was Brownie, the silly and impulsive cat, homeless and without a friend.

After the first night that she appeared hungry and pathetic, I’ve set out a dish of food and warm water each day, much to my husband’s dismay.  He groaned when he found me out and said, “Great, another cat.”  It was as though I had already collected hundreds of cats, and they were sleeping on the shelves, hiding under beds, stretched out in the hallways, and sleeping on his pillow.  (Don’t worry, we only have one little housecat who has lived with us since before we were married.)

With my best efforts, Miss New Kitty still remains shy and skittish, almost feral, but not quite.  She mews and rubs her head against the glass door, and then runs to hide in the corner when I slide the door open for her.

We’ve had a few breakthroughs in our relationship.  Several days ago; she let me pet her furry head without running away.  Granted, it was when she was gobbling down her kitty-kibble and she barely noticed me petting her or my great pleasure from her allowing it.  Yesterday, she let my husband pet her while she was shoveling big mouthfuls of kibble, but when she looked up and realized it was a new hand, she batted his arm away.  Whap, whap, whap!

She hit him, one strike after the other and ran off into the shadows, scared of the big man down on his knees laughing.

“She doesn’t have any claws,” he declared in disbelief.

It’s hard to believe that a cat could survive more than a month as a stray without any claws.  I had to double my efforts to tame the feline and save her from a gruesome death, if she was to be saved.

We nearly had another breakthrough today.  I lured her inside to eat her dinner in the warmth of the apartment.  I felt giddy with joy at our progress and shut the door to keep out the cold air, which sent the creature into a mad frenzy to escape.  She raced around the living room, hitting the wall, tearing up the carpet and making demon noises that my sweet little housecat has never emitted.  In my effort to re-open the door, I discovered that she really does have claws.  She was just giving love swats to the Mister the night before and kept her daggers sheathed. On this particular occasion, the daggers came out.  Oh yes, they all came out.  

So now, she’s back outside.  I can see her anxiously peering in and perhaps re-thinking her decision to be an outside cat.  As I write this, I am nursing a wounded hand, a case of cat-scratch fever and remorse that she wasn’t declawed in her past life.  

Signing off for the Brownie Report and hoping for a less violent tomorrow. 

Crestfallen

One cannot live on dreams alone

water and food are also needed 

if only for the energy to turn ideas

into the future, the present, the now

 

Take away one’s dreams 

to quickly learn 

how only food and water

can never be enough 

for any future, present, or now

 

What to do about Brownie

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When a stray cat peers into your living room from the window

Shivering from cold and hunger

Don’t put out a dish of food every day

Just so you can pet her mangy head

After she eats and looks at you with big green eyes

Don’t instantly give your heart away

To the grungy, brown creature

That might be carrying fleas or rabies

When your husband discovers your new hobby

Don’t make him build you a cat shelter

Out of a cardboard box, old throw rug, and a Mylar blanket

Just in case she gets too cold overnight

When your inside cat throws herself relentlessly against the window

From which your outside cat peers in

Don’t chastise her for being naughty to her sister

Definitely don’t buy special, high protein snacks, like chicken breast or anchovies in oil,

To give your outside cat enough energy to get through the day

Or spend half a day at work surfing on-line

Learning how to transform your wild cat into fat and happy housecat

The very first and last thing not to do when dealing with a stray cat

Is to give her an adorable and fitting name

Because then you really will have to decide

What to do about Brownie

Other takes on dealing with strays:

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/cat-behavior/stray-and-feral-cats

http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/what_to_do_stray_pet.html

http://www.baltimorecats.org/stray.htm “What should I do if I find a stray.”

Bloody Mary’s in the morning

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The couple sat next to each other on rough wooden stools in a bar.  It was a mostly covered bar, except where the sheets of plastic and tin didn’t come together.  Fresh air, sun, birds, and rain came through the same cracks and openings without discretion.

It was a bright, hot morning.  Silvery puddles remained on the streets and sidewalks from the last night’s heavy rain.  The air felt warm and heavy, a welcome change from the cold and frigid air of the Midwest.

“That was some kind of rain we had last yesterday,” the man said to the woman, as he watched a weather forecast on the tv mounted to the wall.

“Looks like Indiana is about to get hit with a blizzard. Whew, glad we’re out of there.”

Already, they began to identify themselves as a part of the island, thinking they were like locals instead of as conspicuous tourists.  Drinking first thing in the day seemed like the right thing to do in their efforts to acculturate.

“Mmm…hmm…” she agreed without words.

She swirled a straw in a glass of something pink, preoccupied, and took off her large sun hat. With one hand, she smoothed her dark hair back into place.  A cringe took over her pretty mouth when she remembered picking her way through the flooded streets and the murky water swirling around her ankles.

My feet were wet at least four hours, she calculated.  An itch started in the arch of her foot and she cringed again.  Oh god, she thought, what if its trench foot or swamp rot or whatever it is that happens when feet get wet for too long?

As she worried, the bar filled with people for brunch. They jostled and bumped into one another as they ordered rounds of mimosas and Bloody Mary’s.  It was an entire town filled with people on vacation and people who make money from those on vacation.  The unspoken agreement allowed this symbiotic relationship to continue as long as everyone was well-plied with alcohol: morning, noon, and night.

The man broke the woman’s ruminations, “Do you want another Greyhound?”

“No, I think I’ll try a Blood Mary.  I want one of those spicy green beans they use down here.”

He laughed and his blue-grey eyes sparkled, “You could just ask for a green bean, I bet the bartender would give you one.”

They both looked at the bartender, waiting impatiently on another couple.  She wore mystical rings on each of her fingers and her skin was like tanned leather.

The bartender must have sensed them talking about her.  She quickly turned her head with as much sass as one gal could muster for a Monday morning, and gave them a look that said, whatever it is you want, it can wait.

When she turned back to the second couple, her hand was balled up into a fist on her hip.

She explained, “Like I said, there is only one option of champagne for the mimosas.”

The woman from the first pair noticed the couple’s bright gold rings and fresh faces, and whispered to her partner, “Yuppy newlyweds,” with a giggle.

She forgot her foot-related worries as the warmth of the vodka spread across her chest and belly.  Life’s much easier to face when one’s day is started with a good drink, she thought.

“Ok,” the bartender sashayed over. “What can I get for you, two?” she asked with a straight face and a thinly veiled disdain for her patrons.

At least she not’s fake about it, the man thought, noticing her serious demeanor.  I’d much rather know that she dislikes us than have her smile at our faces and spit into our drinks. I suppose she still might spit into our drinks, but at least we’ll see it coming.

“Two Bloody Mary’s, please,” the man requested.

Rather than speaking, the bartender nodded and set off to mixing and measuring out the drinks.

Fat drops of rain started to fall through the cracks.  The rain plinked and plunked when it hit the roof of plastic and tin.  It began to drip onto the man’s head, sliding down his blonde hair onto his chest and shoulders.

His partner began to laugh, and said, “Uh oh, you better come over this way, out of the rain.”

She tugged at his stool to bring him out from under one of the cracks and closer to her.

“Where did that come from?” he asked, peering up through the hole in the roof to the sky, now grey and cloudy.

“It will blow over,” the bartender chortled, seeing the man’s wet head, and set down two tall glasses of Bloody Mary.

“Cheers,” the woman said, picking up her glass.  The man picked up his glass and met hers in the air with a chink.

The woman smiled when she sipped her drink, and two spicy green beans bobbed up in the sea of red tomato juice.

“Thank you,” the woman said, catching the bartender’s attention. The bartender looked up with tired eyes and gave a half smile in acknowledgement.

“We might be here awhile,” the man stated, looking back up to the dark sky while his partner thoughtfully crunched on a spicy green bean.

Bail out

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The girl punched the gas pedal to the floor and lunged forward.  Speed made her feel powerful and she laughed with delight.  She watched her brother standing where she had taken off from in the field.

He could never handle going this fast, she thought, as she raced through the path.

He was, in fact, thinking how much faster he would be able to drive the go-cart. 

He pondered the injustice of the situation and said to himself, “I should be test driving, she didn’t spend as much time putting it together as I did.”  

Why did she get to try it out first?  She was always doing things like that claiming it was her birth right.  Impatiently, he crossed his arms across his body and waited.

Her ponytail bounced up and down as she flew over the uneven terrain, throwing dirt clods and grass up into the air behind her.  She left the path and drove straight towards her brother, swerving at the last minute to miss him. 

“Hey, it’s my turn!” he yelled.

He stamped his foot down as he watched her laugh and drive back to the path.

The sun was high and bright in a clear sky that neither the boy nor the girl noticed.  It was warm with a gentle breeze that kept them from getting too hot.  It was the kind of a summer day that they wouldn’t truly appreciate for years to come.

The girl raced past her brother again, waving and laughing this time.  She waived with both hands and laughed.

“Look, no hands,” she yelled and stuck her tongue out at him.  

“No fair, it’s my turn,” he cried as he watched his sister zip past him for another loop on the path.

A mole hole caught one of the small tires and jostled the driver and go-cart sideways.  She stopped laughing and suddenly remembered why she felt so powerless.  It was like a jolt into her brain and heart at the same time.

Not now, she told herself.  She punched the gas and felt the sun on her face and shoulders.

This will be the last time that I will feel happy for a long time, she thought with absolute certainty.  She looked up at the sun and let its warmth rest on her face.  How could she know what was to come, she was impulsive and twelve, hardly the qualifications for a soothsayer or psychic.   

Something shuddered in the engine at the same time, cutting the speed in half and pulling the go-cart and its driver forward in lurches.  Her body jerked back and forth with the misbehaving machine.

The boy saw his opportunity to overtake the go-cart and ran towards the girl, “Get off, it’s my turn,” he demanded.  

His mouth dropped in angry shock when the go-cart lunged forward and then took off, faster than ever before.

“Slow down, you almost killed me,” the boy shouted.

“I’m not doing it!” the girl responded.

The steering wheel locked in place.  She slammed her foot onto the brake to find it slack, completely useless to stop her from hurtling into a grove of pine trees straight ahead.

“I can’t stop!” she screamed with terror in her voice.

Her brother sensed the urgency of his sister’s predicament and yelled, “Bail out.”

He watched his sister head directly for the trunks of several big and unmoving trees.

“Bail, bail, bail,” he shouted as his sister rattled forward towards her destiny, unable to hear her little brother’s pleas.  

Author’s note:

We must be able to recognize the right time to bail.  It’s not quitting, it’s merely surviving.  Sometimes, we are able to roll out to the soft grass of safety without any issues.  Yet, other times, we can’t bear the short term pain and end up smashing into the trunk of an unforgiving tree, bearing a much longer and more painful recovery.   Is it because we are too in love with the thrill to stop, too unaware to sense the danger, too lazy or afraid to make a change? It’s a funny thing that we are able to easily see the crash course that others set for themselves, but so often can’t see our own until we are right in front of a grove of trees and about to crash. 

Bail for yourself and for the love of those around you, don’t think about it, just bail.  

Free Ride

Against the hard bark,

Rough and uneven,

She sat as straight as her crooked back would allow.

 

An ant crawled onto her knee.

She watched

With great mercy.

 

Today you live,

she declared

And flicked the ant into the air.  

 

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