Saturday, October 20, 2007

For Your Reading Pleasure

My novel has not yet burst out of my brain through the keyboard to the hard drive yet, so I've decided I'm just going to start submitting stories and commentaries to magazines and newspapers to hone my skill until the novel gets its act together.

The Wife pointed out an ad in the local paper requesting stories for a regional pet magazine asking for humorous stories about pets for publication. What the heck? I'll give it a shot. I asked her what she thought I should write about. She reminded me of an incident that occurred not long before we moved outstate and started fostering.

And so, I give you a small story about Ebeneezer. To the best of my recollection, this is faithful to the actual incident in question. It still scares me a little bit to think about it.

When I married a few years ago, part of the package deal I had to accept as part of my nuptial bliss were three cats and a Siberian husky. Since I already had a mastiff cross of my own, this made for a full house, but for two animal lovers it was a home of full of warmth, happiness, cat boxes, poop scooping and of course lots of humor.

You'd think that it would be me presiding over this circus, or perhaps my new wife, if she were the stronger personality. You'd be mistaken. Her black cat, Ebeneezer, had the strongest personality of the household for the first year of our marriage, and as such it was his privilege and responsibility to lead this peculiar pack...though he probably thought of it as his "pride". Whatever the case, it was a gang of critters, human and otherwise, living together in rough harmony. I was just in charge of paying bills and watching the show.

Ebeneezer is no longer with us, having died within the first year of our marriage, but he still lives in our household's institutional memory as an intimidating leader and amazing character. Ebeneezer was not what you'd call an "outside cat". He was with my wife for many years. He was an apartment cat, then a leader of cats (and a human woman) in a house, then finally leader of three cats, two dogs and two humans. By that time he was getting a bit crochety in his old age, and one incident typifies his arbitrary, contradictory style perfectly.

One day my parents were visiting, helping us do some project or other around the house, when Ebeneezer got outside. This didn't happen often, but it wasn't unheard of. He was a house cat, but he enjoyed the odd outside adventure as well. My father walked over to pick him up and take him inside. As dad approached, he let out a sound that was alien to any sound I'd ever heard a cat make...and I heard it from inside the house. With all the doors and windows closed. I honestly thought it might be a woman screaming in the next yard or something, and I ran out to see what was wrong.

Here was Dad, standing about 10 feet away and contemplating a ball of fur that used to be Ebeneezer but was now about twice the size of Eber and resembled nothing so much as a porcupine. He was still growling, too, but now on a register so low that you couldn't hear it until you got near him, and then it vibrated your heels on the ground. It was a sound that said "okay, I'm nervous and scared, and if you try to pick me up I will slash your face off of your skull and eat your liver".

Eber was now crouched under a bush next to the house. Being the self-anointed animal expert that I was, I chided Dad for being nervous about picking him up and walked directly over to Ebeneezer. My plan was simply to pick up the growling cat and put him in the house, so I could mentally pat myself on the back and consider myself superior to Dad in the animal-handling arena. I don't have many arenas where I can feel superior to Dad, so I'll take them where I can get them. And then it happened.

Eber had no plans of allowing a mere peon in his catdom to simply pick him up and take him where he wasn't ready to go. He tried to warn me with the usual arched back, hiss, and fur fluffed out like a feather duster, but clearly he could see I wasn't impressed, so he decided to impress me. When I got within about of foot of touching him, he let out the loudest, most extended...SCREAM...that I've ever heard out of any animal in my life. I firmly believe that Eber could not have produced such a sound with his own vocal chords. I believe he drew on some sort of latent species ability, borrowing the voices of all the cats for miles around for just a moment to impress on me that no, I would NOT be taking him in my arms just this moment.

I thought about it for about two milliseconds before backing off in just exactly the same way Dad had and standing next to him, wondering at what I had just witnessed. When my wife came out to see just exactly what the issue was, she came upon quite a tableau. Two men standing halfway across the yard, chins in hands and apprehensively contemplating a fluffed-out, growl-rumbling, angry cat who seemed to be daring the men to make a move. The men did not appear ready to make a move, either.

"What's going on out here?" she wanted to know.

"I don't think he wants to be picked up right now," I said.

"Oh, don't be silly. It's just Eber." And before I could plead with her that I didn't want to be a widower at such a young age and I liked her face ON her skull and it would really be better to wait awhile, she picked him up and took him into the house. My Dad and I were left to look at each other and contemplate whether this incident and my wife's expert handling of it had done any lasting damage to our manhood. I think, three years or so later, the jury is still out on that one.

Two cats and two dogs have died (and been replaced) since that day, but Eber remains a unique, timeless classic. My parents and my wife and I are fond of recalling that incident and others like it, but I don't think I've really fully worn the pants in the family since that day.


At 3:30 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think "the wife" should leave you to your own devices more often as I get more bloggage for my dollar :)


Big sis


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