Putting Out the Home Fires

We came home tonight and immediately smelled something strange. It was a chemical smell, and it was strong. Within minutes we discovered that the bulb of a portable light was pressed into a plush chair, and the light had been on for a long time. The plastic surface had melted, and the underlying foam was hot and crunchy.

There’s a hole in the chair, but we seem to have avoided a fire.

The thing is, neither of us remembers having left that light on. But both of us have witnessed the cats performing hijinks on that chair. It seems likely that one of them tripped the switch at some point during the day’s shenanigans.

I always suspected that they were trying to kill us, but I had no idea that the cats wanted to burn the house down.


Cat Spotting

Ling is an old cat, and she’s been developing old cat problems. She sleeps harder than she used to, she’s skinny, and — while she was never a particularly graceful creature — she misses even simple jumps with surprising regularity.

Last night Ling slept in my lap while I read comics on my tablet. My thigh went from warm to hot, and I dimly thought that this six pound cat was really kicking out the heat. A few minutes later she woke up, struggled to her feet and headed off somewhere.

My leg still felt too hot.

I finally set the tablet aside and looked down. There was a small wet spot where Ling’s butt had been. She’d leaked on my in her sleep, then woken up to finish the job properly.

As this sunk in, she came back and struggled back into my lap. She noticed the wet spot on my jeans and sniffed at it. Then she looked at me with wide eyes as though to say “Holy crap, dude! Someone peed on you!”

I put her on the floor and left to change my pants. Just a leaky old cat…

Hoisting Petards

The association between cats and yarn is not a myth. There appears to be something about string that plugs directly into the play center of their furry little minds, and if it’s a ball of string — let’s just say that their brains are no longer engaged. But sometimes I think there’s a hint of cunning in their maniacal playing.

Our cats have been filching yarn for years, constructing elaborate monkey traps in the stairway as part of their ongoing efforts to disable us. They’ve learned that broken monkeys stay home and make good chaise lounges, so most of their efforts go toward turning us into furniture. Cats are jerks. Cute jerks.

Monday night, Bogart got into some yarn just as we were getting ready for bed. I’d already gone upstairs for my usual pre-sleep reading of comics, so Wendi was the one who discovered him sitting on the lower landing inside of several loops of yarn. When she laughed at him, Bogie ran upstairs, perhaps embarrassed at having been caught laying a monkey trap. But when he ran away, some of the loops of yarn knotted around one of his back feet. He tried to shake it off, and when that didn’t work he ran again. That only tightened the snare.

Wendi called me in to assist, and somehow I got the task of trying to pick the knot loose as Bogie kicked frantically. There’s nothing quite like having claws flailing an inch from my nose to make me focus. I managed only a few quick tugs at the yarn, but maybe that helped. Wendi picked up our little saboteur to get better control of him, and the yarn fell off.

Within seconds the furry fool had resumed his frolicking in the yarn, as though nothing had happened. Maybe they aren’t that cunning after all.

5 Marriage Tips That You Can Really Use!

Wendi and I have been married for nineteen years. If we were an agency or consultancy of some sort, we could claim 38 years of marriage experience between us. Sounds impressive put that way. “Put our 38 years of marital experience to work for you!”

(Note to self: look into monetization of marriage.)

From my vast stores of lessons learned, I offer the following relationship advice.

1. Money matters when you don’t have any

Living check to check creates stress that can spark arguments when your desires conflict with those of your partner. A purely hypothetical example that totally happened: I wanted $100 worth of comics each week, and Wendi wanted to eat. With limited income, something had to give.

Fortunately, we can afford food again.

2. Unite against a common enemy

It’s human nature to unite against whoever is winning. Adding a willful and uncontrollable being to the family can give the two of you something to oppose together. A cat or a particularly spastic dog is the ideal marital companion, providing an unceasing stream of objectionable behavior that you have to find some way to jointly foil and suppress.

Do not attempt to use children for this purpose. They’re cunning enough to turn the tables on you, and if treated with hostility they may grow up and write essays about what a jerk you are.

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Does your honey have a turn of phrase that drives you crazy? Does your baby have an inexplicable fondness for a certain singer whose voice drags nails on the chalkboard of your mind? Let it go. If you can’t handle those things, you’ll never survive issues like unemployment and Japanese schoolgirl figurines.

4. Your face is less important than your relationship

You’ve done something stupid. You were wrong. You made a mistake. Your instinct is to save face in front of your partner so they’ll see you as the perfect being you think they think you are.

Well, you’re not perfect. Everybody already knows it, especially the ones who live with you. Admitting to errors builds trust both ways and brings you closer together.

Of course if your mistake involves getting closer to another partner, I would humbly suggest your face is beyond the power of plastic surgery to repair.

5. Zombies

Wendi has learned to accept seeing a zombie movie every now and again. She even enjoys them on occasion. This is the ultimate secret of our marriage. It’s sympathetic magic; just as zombies are hard to kill, so is our marriage.

Just ignore the shambling, rotting horror stuff. The analogy sort of falls to pieces there. So to speak.

The actual importance of this lesson is that it’s clearly so personal that it’s utterly useless as general advice. This is the internet. It’s not much like a series of tubes, but it’s a lot like millions of people sharing their thoughts without anything like facts or research. If you’re seriously expecting to find useful advice on the net about a topic with any degree of subjectivity, you’re going to be quickly surrounded by zombies.


My hairdresser always asks me if I have any big plans for the evening. I’m fairly uncommunicative, so she has to use such gambits to drag me into conversations.

When I was in last time, I told her that Wendi had plans so it would likely be just me, a movie, the couch, and the cats. This reminded her of her unfortunate cat, and she told me about the poor fella’s recent ordeals.

Seems that a neighborhood tom took a strong dislike to him and inflicted harm that earned a vet $400 to repair. On returning home, he went out and promptly had another encounter with his tormentor. This time, things got very personal.

According to my hairdresser, her cat had been forcibly neutered.

A lot of thoughts crowded into my head meat: poor kitty, the advantages of professional neutering, relief that I kept my cats indoors. Mentioning this last one seemed unwise, as she still had scissors at the ready.

One moral struck me as being of the most general application; always wear pants to a fight.

Pet Service

Bogart didn’t want us to go to work today. He rubbed against my legs and flopped on the ground. I rubbed his belly and reminded him that someone had to earn the kibble money.

“No problem,” he said. “Humans will pay to rub my belly.”

His eyes glinted playfully, and I extracted my hand from his pincer attack.

“They’re not going to want to pay to get clawed,” I advised him.

Bogart displayed his belly to best effect, but that feral look was still in his eyes.

“Clawing is free with purchase,” he decided.

Cats have no business acumen whatsoever.

Feline Nocturnal Activity

You don’t need ghosts or demons to wish you had video of what happens in your home while you’re asleep. Cats turn out to excel at generating a sense that unexplainable forces are at work.
Oh sure, for the most part their nocturnal doings are limited to the strategic planting of hairballs or a rambunctious game of poop hockey. Once in a great while there’s a mysterious odor that’s eventually traced to a grisly trophy stash. Every now and then though, the furry devils really put themselves out in order to sow human confusion and uneasiness.
One morning last winter we came downstairs to discover that the fish had weathered an eventful night. The end of their water filter had fallen to the bottom of the tank, exposing any passing fish to the full force of the filter’s suction. Sure enough, Wendi found one of them dead in the filter. We were two fish low though. Weird.
Then another fish vanished.
We thought of the cats, of course. We know they’re not trustworthy; they’re bored, overfed predators. There just didn’t seem to be any way for them to manage it. There were no convenient perches at the fishing hole, and no tell-tale splashes of water. If they had tiny fishing poles they were kept well concealed. It was a mystery.
Then the weekend came, and Wendi saw Ling curled up asleep on top of the fish tank. Suddenly everything made horrible sense. Ling must have climbed onto the tank because it was warm. Being all of about 6 pounds tops, she could sit on the lid with no problems. The choose-your-own sushi bar was a bonus.
Bad Kitty!

Ling’s defense was that she was thrown out of her home at an early age.

All access to the tank was barricaded, and our two remaining fish continued to remain. We returned to the usual nighttime protocols: poop and puke.
Until a few weeks ago.
I’ve written about my weekday morning routine. I staggered into the kitchen as usual, Ling yelling at me for not feeding her quickly enough. Waving at her to quiet down, I went to get a fresh cat dish… and stopped.
It took a few moments to process what my bleary eyes were reporting. There was a plastic container on the floor, on its side, and there were things nearby spilling out of it. Little brown things. The kibble bin had fallen. The kibble was wet. There was water on the floor. Probably from the broken glass.
My puzzled gaze tracked up to the counter directly above the mess. Coffee maker. Pill bottle on its side. Fish tank.
Ling sat in the middle of the mess, impatiently reminding me of my duties. Everything came together, and I realized that Ling had tried to climb onto the food bin in order to do some night fishing.
“Bad kitty,” I told her.
“MAOOW!” she insisted.
So I fed her.

Dignity, Always Dignity

My typical weekday begins with Ling yelling at me as I stumble blearily into the kitchen. She’s currently our oldest cat, and she’s on a special diet to fatten her up. I scoop some food out of a can, mix it with a splash of hot water, and try to set it down before she knocks it out of my hands. As soon as she’s done eating she trots after me and attempts to crawl into my cereal bowl.

I’m used to this, and if I fail to accept it with good grace I at least refrain from throwing her out. Her previous family tossed her into the snow and moved away, and while I would do anything to avoid having her butt in my face while I’m eating — well, like Meatloaf, I won’t do that. Besides, I’m not packing all my crap just to avoid a cat.

It helps that the other cats are usually still too groggy to join in the ritual begging. Wyeth tends to stay in bed after making sure Wendi gets up, and Bogart likes to savor his final moments of owning Wendi’s chair before she reclaims it for the morning. This leaves me with only one furry adversary taking advantage of my pre-caffeinated stupor. Once in a great while one of the boys breaks routine, and I have to balance cereal or coffee while playing a dangerous game of “Guess Where The Large One Will Step”. Even more rarely, and never with any warning,  I’m treated to a brand new game.

This week’s novel entertainment was brought to me by Bogart and the letters ‘P’ and ‘J’.

Bogart decided to get up while I was making my toast, and he checked on the dry food bowls. The bottom of one was visible through the kibble, which always sends him into a panic. He followed me to the refrigerator for butter and jam, winding around my legs. He tried again on my way back to the toaster, incredulous that I still wasn’t feeding him. As I pulled out the toast, he lost all patience and reached up to poke me.

When the nail trimmers come out Bogart turns into a free-roaming Cuisinart. We’ve come to a truce with him; in exchange for leaving the furniture unscathed, we make no attempt on his claws. The other cats aren’t happy with this special arrangement, but they don’t have Bogart’s strong bargaining position.

Bogart reached up and poked me in the seat of my pajamas. A claw stuck in the fabric, and he tried to pull it free. Having learned never to use my own hands to help free a claw, I lowered myself to give him a better angle to release himself. He responded by flopping on his side. My pajamas went with him, and the little bastard lay there purring in my pants. I buttered my toast in shame, defeated by a critter 1/20th of my size.

At least Wyeth wasn’t up.