Monk and The Meows

Some of Monk's gang

Some of Monk’s gang

My buddy’s heart hurts.  And there’s pretty much nothing I can do.  But keep telling him that I know.  That loving things that die is just the worst.  No. The worst is not loving things.  Loving things that die is second worst.

Still, I hate to seem him go through it.  All because he’s a good person with a big heart.  It doesn’t seem fair.

Monk was always good.  Even when he wasn’t.  When he was bad, it was the best.  The best kind of bad.  My kind.  And even though his bad period lasted shorter than mine, it was stellar while it burned.  Bonded us as brothers.  Of bad.

Today he’s just always good.  With maybe a light sprinkle of bad.  Which is kind of a miracle actually.

Childhood written by Dickens during opium withdrawal.  Dad died when he was two.  Alcoholic mother abandoning the family for weeks at a time.  The kids having to steal to eat.  Foster homes.  Abuse.  Just the fucking ugly worst.  Surely, he would grow up gnarled and thorny.  Somebody should pay for his misfortune.  Why not everyone around him?

Not Monk.  It never turned him ugly.  He endured it all with a quiet dignity.  Like they teach saints to do.  Only nobody taught him.  He just did it.  And has kept doing it.  Ever since.

Who does that?  Statistically he should have become a serial killer.  Instead of a man who goes around like St. Francis, taking care of animals.  I shit you not.  Wild rabbits, squirrels, and birds at home, and a bunch of feral cats living in the industrial complex he works at.  Him and a guy that volunteers at Felines and Friends have caught fourteen of them.  In cat traps.

All the cats get a trip to the vet.  Everybody gets a check up.  Gets spayed or neutered.  The ones with a suitable temperament are put up for adoption.  The ones too Marius, get turned back loose, where Monk continues to care for them.  The original family he adopted lives in the relative safety of a pile of pallets behind chain link.  He feeds them everyday.  Even drives into town on week-ends.  So none of them would have to take any crazy risks to eat.

It beats the shit they serve at The Sally.

It beats the shit they serve at The Sally.

Digs the crazy spats.

Dig the crazy spats.

These feral cats come to him.  Because he’s proven himself a good yegg.  A Square John.  A Stand-up.  They let him pet them.  Let him hang out with them.  Share their silence.  Together they stare at the beauty of the arroyo under big sky.  Everybody all squinty-eyed and wise.  Like they’re posing for an album cover.  He’s family.

And like me, they know they can go to Monk when they’re in trouble.  And that he won’t let them down.

He went to feed them one day, and noticed he hadn’t seen the mom around.  One of the boy cats comes up and starts meowing, then takes off like Lassie.  Monk follows him to a warehouse.  The workers tell him they’d seen a black cat in the back somewhere.  They like having the cats around because of the mice, so nobody tried to get rid of it.

Too scared to dart past the workers, Mom was holed-up in a dark storage area.  Monk called out, and she kept meowing back until he found her.  Let him pick her up and carry her past all the scary people.

They all go home.  Mama’s back.  Big happy reunion.  The whole family making a big furry figure eight around his legs.  Everybody frisky with the joy of life.  Monk the hero, petting with both hands.  Angels in the clouds getting cuted-out by all this.

Home safe in an easily defended fortress.

Home safe in an easily-defended fortress.

No surprise really.  Even back in eighth grade I had been telling him he should be a monk or something.  “You’re one of those spiritual mystics,” I’d tell him.  I wanted to guidance counsel him towards his strengths.  Something about his eyes.  You could picture him walking in the woods.  Drinking maple syrup out of tree branches.  Squirrels on his shoulders dropping nuts in his pockets.  Bees bringing him honey.  Putting it on his beard,  So he can have some later.

Since he just had some maple syrup and probably doesn’t want any honey right now.

A man whose love for creation and it’s creatures is returned ten-fold.  Walking lightly on the leaves, so as not to startle the shy wood nymphs.  Winking at snakes.  Knowing each frog by first name.  Strolling along, cloaked in love.

Yeah, he seemed like that type.  So I told him that’s the field he should pursue.  He should be some kind of holy guy.  Me, I wanted to be something more bad-ass.  Like a heart-broken Legionnaire or a Robin Hood bank robber.  I wanted to be more Noir.  But I never wanted to let that get between us.

I don’t know what Monk wanted.  I never asked him.

Well anyway, it doesn’t matter because he didn’t take my advice.  Instead of becoming a devout monk, bent over some scroll, he went a’Viking.  For a little while, din’t yeh?  Clocked your romper-stomper pillage and plunder time.  I saw it.

Watched him give the Bat Chain a mighty tug, I have.  Hell, he was entitled to some bad behavior.  But even then, if anyone was going to get hurt, Monk made sure it’d be the right people.  Racist skins.  Drunk Frat assholes.  He carefully discerned who truly deserved a running punch in the guts, and who needed a fast fist in the teeth.  And Monk always made sure it was the right people.  He was like that.

The other difference between us was that he knew when to reel it in.  He knew when it was time to grow up.  To wise up.  To finally follow my advice and become some kind of holy dude who treads the Earth doing good deeds and shit.

And now I feel like he’s paying for it.

On his way to work he found one of the little cats run over dead.  Smokey.   Son of Midnight.  Brother to Kung and Fu.

Well, it cut Monk in half.  Even though he tried to prepare himself for the eventuality, it still sliced.  Losing any of them was going to be bad, but finding one of the younger ones hurt to death… it just doesn’t suck worse.  It’s a scientific fact that bigger hearts hurt more.  If he didn’t spend all that love on those cats, his heart wouldn’t be squeezing with so much sorrow right now.  Instead, his love has been paid back with pain.

He should’ve never listened to me.

He wouldn’t have to deal with this if he’d become a mercenary.  Or a drug lord.

Wouldn’t have to deal with all this sadness,  Burying it.  Crying.  Praying.  Shiva in the heart.  Trance of Sorrow soul-ache.  For what?  To love?  Some cats?

Some deal.

I know he doesn’t regret it.  Because he’ll keep riding on, with more arrows stuck in him than St. Sebastian–eyes scanning the horizon for any other orphaned ball of fur that might need his help.   A guy like Monk is ready to pay the price of love.  I know him.  He’ll just keep loving, no matter how bad it hurts.  What the sages call “Faith above Reason.”  Doing the loving thing, no matter what the consequences to your self.

Love no matter what.

That’s not a very reasonable thing to do.

In fact, it’s absurd.

And that is why it’s so kick-in-the-balls bad-ass.  So bat-shit reckless.  It’s so insane, that I have to climb on-board.  It’s Noir as Nuit and just as sweet.  Beyond gnarly.  The ultimate rebellion.  Against a selfish self.  And if not a fatal blow–a real chop to the beast’s throat.  A little something-something to make it think twice.  Before it rears it’s ugly head again.  That’s for sure.  So count me in.  Love no matter what.

This is going to be my craziest stunt yet.

Fucking Monk.  You still got it.

Always did.  Always will.

That’s why you lead the way.

Smokey hiding.

Smokey hiding.

In lieu of flowers, The Temple of Bast has asked that donations to http://www.felinesandfriends.org/ be made in Smokey’s memory.

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Too Foofy To Fight.

So proud of Louie right now.  He finally went on the attack.  Saw the neighbor’s cat, Boris, strutting through our patio like he owned the place–and pounced.  Just bushwhacked him.  Got his fangs in first.  Really got into some fur.  They went around and around in one of those cartoon cat carnival wheels of clawing.  Screeching and yowling.  Going completely saber tooth savage trying to tear each other apart.  It was hard to call who was up.

But it was Boris who broke-off first.  And ran away.

So victory goes to Louie.

Let’s see, that makes 147 wins for Boris, and Louie with 1.

Hey.  It beats zero.  By a lot.

And every comeback has to start somewhere.

Louie came inside all puffed-up with electricity.  Tail all freaked-out and fat.  Eyes wide-eyed crazy.  Darting back and forth.  Totally amped with EPFP.

Euphoric Post-Fight Psychosis.

Diagnosed it right away.  He probably could use a shot of something hot.  And a bottle of something cold.  And a cocktail waitress leg to hold on to…while he catches his breath.

I went over to congratulate him.

“That was awesome, Lou.  Full-on beast ambush.”

He padded over to his bowl for some water.

“I’ve been telling you about the element of surprise, haven’t I?  Freak them first.  That’s the rule.”

I went and got a can of real tuna.  Tonight called for a celebration.  For the past year, Boris has been tormenting Louie.  We’d hear him crying outside.  You’d get out there and find Louis all cornered and cowering.  Boris swatting at him.  Pretty much at will.

Lori and I would have to chase him away so Louie could make a break for home.   He’d run inside and hide under the bed in a total puss-out panic.

Fancy and afraid.

Fancy and afraid.

I’d feel bad for him.  Could really empathize.  Unfortunately.

Still, I would think, “You’ve got claws, Louie.  Give something back.”

But I’d keep it to myself.  I didn’t want to lay any more shame on him.

Instead, I’d pet him and try to sooth his frightened fur.  Talk to him.  Like a father to his son.  Maybe tell him a heart-warming allegory.

“Dave told me about this time when he was in prison and got clobbered to the floor.  Some black cons who were watching, started shouting at him to get up.  To keep bringing it.  To dig down deep and rally.

‘Get up off that floor, boy!  Don’t you dare stay down!’  they yelled.  ‘Never stay down!’

It worked.  Dave got up.  And then managed to serve up a little something himself.  A little something for his antagonist to chew on.  Something to make a motherfucker think twice.

You see what I’m saying, Louie?  It’s okay to take a few shots.  It’s inevitable.  Just make sure you make a motherfucker think twice.”

He’d be licking at his privates, not paying attention to my heartwarming allegory.

If I didn’t love Louie so much, I could have been a little ashamed of him.  He’s just not as tough as our older cat, Bugsy.

Bugsy is all street.  Gone all day.  All night.  Comes home only to eat and crash.  Has an extensive network of people that feed him throughout the neighborhood.  So he’s got the resources to go a ramblin’.  Already at four months old, he’d be gone for days at a time.  Jesus, I can’t begin to tell you how stressed-out I’d be waiting for him to come home.  All the hand-wringing.  And pacing.

Makes perfect karmic sense.

Anyways, he’s grown up into quite a shiny beast.   Sleek and muscular.  Savvy smart.  Good cat chow charmer.  Knows how to run game on a sucker.  Good fighter, too.  Boris and him have an uneasy truce these days.  They’ve both hurt each other pretty good.  So now Boris doesn’t even mess with Louie if Bugsy is in earshot.

Because Bugsy is a badass.

Louie, on the other hand…

He likes to stay close to home.  Likes to play with his toys.  In the living room.  While the folks watch TV.

Sensitive.  Well-behaved.  Imagination Station crafts type of cat.  Into the fun-for-the-whole-family paradigm.  You know.

Wholesome Boy.

I’d look over at Lori quietly reading on the couch.  Blame her.

He’s just too foofy to be tough.  Too fancy.  His fur puffs around his neck, giving him one of those Sir Walter Raleigh collar deals.  His tail curls up like a fop’s feather.  He looks like he’s wearing a fur coat.  Which I guess he is.  But I mean like a Park Avenue parka.

Like what I used to have to wear to New York City Public School 178.  Oh man.  The rabbit fur coat my uncle brought back from his trip to Switzerland.  I can remember the dread after I opened the box.  I knew what awaited.  I would beg my mom not to make me wear it.

“But it looks like a girl’s coat!”

“It’s expensive!”

“They’re going to kill me.”

Took a lot punches, kicks, and snowballs because of that fucking thing.  Made me too foofy-poofy to fight back.  God, I hated that coat.

But I don’t anymore.  Turns out, that after getting enough humiliating ass-kickings, you stop being so afraid of them.  Then, well…something shifts.  You can detach a little.  Think a little clearer while getting one.  Which helps you come up with good ideas.  On the fly.  Like using common household items to destroy your opponent’s will.  And secure a glorious victory.

Indeed.  Getting your ass kicked, is the first part of learning how to kick some back.  Pretty essential, actually.

So yeah, I owe a lot to that coat.   Although it might have made me into somewhat of an introvert.  And a dreamer.

I’d watch Louie bat a twig across the living room floor in some pretend game he made up.  For hours.  Retreating into his imagination.  Becoming a Dungeons and Dragons type.  The kind that wears costumes at the comic convention.  Some swashbuckling character out of Final Fantasy.

Alright, I’d think, so he’s a dweeb.

Maybe even gay.

What are you gonna do?  Accept it.  Love him to death anyway.  He’s still your cat.  So let him play with his little balls and stuffed dolls.  Let him prance fancy.  As long as he’s having fun, right?  Live and let live.  Not everybody can be a badass.  Being cute is good too.  You and Bugsy will just have to look out for him.  Help protect his sissy ass.  Since that’s just the way he is.  And it’s okay.

To be the one that gets beat up by bullies.

Seething after defeat.

Seething after defeat.

Then out of nowhere…he’d go on these killing sprees.

Mice.  Birds.  Lizards.  A bat.

All left on the kitchen floor.  Headless.

What’s all this?  Maybe he has another side.  A darker, more dangerous one.

One night, while I was watering the planters on the side of the house. I watched him clap a fruit bat straight out the air.  He shot out from his crouch like a surface-to-air missile and smacked his paws together.  Dragged that flying sack of rabies right down.  Real Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom predator of the savannah shit.

Sure surprised me.  Well well.  All that chasing a little ball around didn’t hurt his skills.  That, and the fact that he’d finally been holding his own while sparring with Bugs meant he’s wasn’t a full-blown wanty-paste.  I just wished he’d channel some of that blood lust  to dealing with Boris.  Take on a more daunting opponent.

Then I’d remember that he’s just a kid.  Still learning the score.  Taking his lumps.  On his way up.  And Boris is helping him.

Helping him figure it out.

Figure out that just because he’s a little sensitive, doesn’t mean he has to be a victim.  That you’re never too foofy to fight back.

I think he took a big step tonight.  He finally took it to Boris.  Gave something to make him think twice.  I smiled.

“It would’ve been okay if you lost, Lou.  I’ll always love you.”

I put down the bowl of tuna and watched him eat.

.

Got my lunch and I'm off to my ass-kicking.

Got my lunch and I’m off to my ass-kicking.

Failure As A Viable Option

Stands for so much more than Failure.

Stands for so much more than Failure.

God bless those crazy door-kickers, men for whom failure is not an option.  They’re fighting a war.  They can’t afford to fail.  Not me.  Failure is not only an option, but quite often, a much easier one.  It’s certainly easier than trying not to fail.

So yeah, you probably don’t want me on your night HALO drop team.  I’m the guy who’s so pissed-off about the snack machine taking my change that I forget to pack my chute.

Thank God there’s a difference between hostage rescue and putting out a weekly blog.  Smart of me to seek the latter gig.  Found myself a niche with a lot of slack.  Failure is not going to ruin my week.  Maybe the week-end.  And Monday.  But that’s it.

It was three-thirty Saturday morning and I had finished my little piece.  I read it over and decided I hated it.  “I hate it,” I said out loud.  Like it was a big awaited announcement to wake up my cats with.  They didn’t seem to give a flying fur ball.

Anyway, I didn’t push publish, and went up to bed.  Yes, I had failed, but somehow corn will still genetically mutate in the fields and cyclops children will continue to be born in the Ukraine.

The show will go on.

However, to be very honest,  I was a little pissed.  Pissed at myself mostly, but with a sprinkling of pissed-at-the-world-in-general.  No specific gripe, just a blanket resentment.  Just the sort of blanket you want to snuggle up to as you slide into your dream state.  For a good night of sleep.  After you read a little bit about Mexican prison gangs.

As I drifted off that night, I repeated a little affirmation, “I failed, because that’s what failures do best, and I am the best.”

Nighty-night.

I had a dream I was playing chess with my old film professor, Fred Karetski.  We were on stage in front of an auditorium audience.  When I looked down at the game I noticed my pieces were checkers while old Fred had a combination of chess pieces and what looked like over-sized Monopoly markers.  What the fuck?  I didn’t understand exactly how, but it appeared he had an advantage.  His big pewter shoe probably had more killing power than a red checker.

How exactly do you play this game?  I had no clue.  I didn’t even know if it was my turn.  And was too embarrassed to ask.

The place is pin-drop quiet.

I’m freaking out, but Karetski is just hanging loose, absentmindedly applying and re-applying Chapstick like he always did.  This little display of oral fixation would bug the shit out of me back then and did now. Partly to take the opportunity to vent my spleen, and partly to distract the audience from my obvious ineptitude, I decided to call him out on it.  I’ll save this situation with an inspired diversionary rant.

“You and that bullshit Chapstick, Karetski. Maybe you should give it a rest.  Personally I don’t believe in Chapstick.  I don’t even believe in chapped lips.  I mean I believe they exist, but not that they’re a problem big enough to go to the store and buy a cherry-flavored wax tube to rub around on them.  If chapped lips are such a big problem for you, then you don’t have enough problems.  You need your cities bombed while you feed on vermin.  You want a good way to deal with chapped lips?  Ignore them, and after a while they will un-chap.  They fucking always do, Freddy Boy. So maybe it’s time for you to scrape the protective and soothing emollient from your fat greasy lips…and man up.”

He reaches into his pocket.  Pulls out the stick, pops off the cap, and starts smearing.  He puts the cap back on and smacks his lips.

“Your move,” he says, grinning.

I woke up the next morning more tired than when I went to bed.  Lori was still sleeping.  I tried to walk downstairs while the two cats figure-eighted between my legs in a pre-feeding frenzy of affection.  We looked like a Balinese circus act.

“That’s very cute, you little fuckers.  You’re going to make me break my neck.”

I made it to the kitchen and started the coffee.  Then I opened a can of cat food.  For the cats.

I watched them eat while I waited for the coffee.  I tried to look for the positive.  Let’s see.  I said “I hate it,” instead of “This sucks.”  That means I wasn’t saying the article was bad, just that I thought it was.  That shows a little discernment.

Just speeding your way up the rungs of your spiritual ladder, aren’t you?  I poured myself a large cup.

What else?  Anything else positive I can take away from this experience?

Nope.  All tapped out.  I went outside to water the garden.  I’ve been lax about watering this winter and some of the plants died.  Sorry everybody.  Sorry I neglected you to the point of killing you.  And shit.

All form is transitive.  Without this fact there could be no sorrow.  Well, at least not without fixating on that fact.

I pointed the hose at the two rose bushes for a while.   Then I stood over the gardenias and let it soak.  Watering my Garden of Sorrow.

It’s only a blog, for crissake’s.  Why do you make a big deal about missing a self-imposed deadline?  It’s not like some big sweaty city editor is shouting his scotch breath into your eyeballs for missing it.  So why are you?

Because I’m insane.  We’ve gone over this.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  When I can’t write, I can’t be.  And I don’t want to fail at being.  It’s airtight.

I gave the poinsettias a little splash.  They grew too crazy last year.  The leaves were freakishly large.  Land of the Lost large.  They gave Lori the creeps.  Me too, kind of.  Paper plate-sized leaves you picture a Stegosaurus snacking on.   Yeah, that’s enough water for you guys.  I walked the hose over to the other planter.

Everything but the bush with purple leaves was dead.  You couldn’t kill that thing.  Cut it down to the stump twice and it always grew back bushier than before.   I watered it.  A little reward for perseverance.

“Good boy.  Fuck those pansy annuals.  Drink up.”

I put the hose away and went inside.  Lori had come downstairs.

“Hey, how are you?  Did you publish?”

“Nah.  I didn’t like it.”

“Oh.  How are you feeling?”

“I’m alright.  It’ll take more than that to kill me.”

I poured myself another cup of coffee and sat down at the computer.  I re-read the piece.  It was okay.  It needed some smoothing out, but was salvageable.  I might have been a little too hard on it.  It wasn’t a complete failure.

I guess nothing ever is.

Nature’s Gnarly Gifts

Merry Christmas, Master.

Merry Christmas, Master.

I was coming down the steps one morning and almost stepped on it.  A dead bird one of the cats dragged in.  I nearly jumped out of my skin.  Did that little dance with the pumping knees and wavy fingers.  You know, The Creepy Crawl.

What’s the deal with these cats?  Their heaping the dead up as gifts?  I mean, it’s a nice gesture and all.  But I don’t  dig dealing with the bodies.  I looked down a little closer to it.  What the …?  It was on some sort of tray.  It was an ink stamp pad, turned upside down.

It was Bugsy’s work.  He had gone up to the den, brought down a ink stamp pad, turned it upside down, then place the dead bird on it.  He went to all that trouble to make a nice presentation.  Frankly, it creeped the fuck out of me.  It looked macabre.  Ghoulish.  Made me think about Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.  Probably not the reaction Bugsy was hoping for.  I felt bad.  Still, it was pretty weird.  Disturbing really.  What kind of kitty cat was I raising here?  Martha Stewart or Manson?

At least this victim was dead.  Half a lizard.  Headless mouse.  Doesn’t matter.  Dust pan, broom, Trader Joe’s paper bag.  Quick crime scene clean-up.  It’s when either him or Louie bring in something that’s still kicking that things start to jump around here.  You won’t see two more worthless people dealing with calamity than my girlfriend and I.  Lot’s of impotent hand-clapping and shouting, taking turns to jump up on the furniture.

Meanwhile, the cats are taking turns to slowly torture another creature to death.  What kind of family is this?  Daddy may be passive-aggressive, but in a very subtle way.  You can’t say I modeled this behavior.

Living here off this little artificial lake there’s been all kinds of opportunity to interact with wildlife.  Mice, ducks, lizards, turtles, possums, racoons and bats, all pay us a visit.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love animals, but there’s something about close proximity to the little critters that  makes me a little uncomfortable.  I’m from New York City.  We have squirrels, pigeons, and rats, and we’ve learned how to pretty much stay out of each others space.

That’s different than turning on the light and seeing a family of racoons in your kitchen making a midnight brunch.  One guy eating cereal out of the box, another one in front of an open refrigerator, peeling off slices of my jalapeno cheese.  Another using a can opener to get into my pork and beans.  All of them looking at me like “What the fuck do you want?”

“Uh excuse me!  I’m very sorry but the kitchen is closed for the evening.”

Nobody seems to care.  Maybe it didn’t register.  They’re looking at me, like I’m merely an irritant.  Almost like they know they could all take me.  Rip me to shreds with their Mutual Of Omaha claws and teeth.  They’re right.  There’s nothing I can do but back up the stairs and close the bedroom door.  They’ll leave when they get full or bored.  You have to just hope they don’t tear the place up too much before they go.  It’s like having a bunch of methed-up bikers crash your place.

My girlfriend called me one night.  This was before I lived with her.  Back when I lived a block away.  Anyway, she was all freaked out.  There was a bat flying around her house.  Makes sense, I thought.  Then I realized she expected me to do something about it.

“Oh.  Okay.”

I hung up, got in the car, and drove the seventeen seconds to her house.  I didn’t know what I was supposed to do to get rid of a flying bat.  But I’m already not digging the visuals.  Seems like it could be something I’m not going to enjoy.  Too bad.  You’re the man.  You have to deal with this.  That’s why God invented you.

I went in and quickly looked around.  I didn’t see any flying bat.  I also didn’t see Lori.  She had barricaded herself in the bathroom.

“I paused Grand Theft Auto 3 for this!” I announced. “Where is it?”

She slowly opened the door.  She peeped her face through the crack.

“It was flying around the kitchen– then it flew upstairs.”

Oh great.  Now it could be anywhere.  Lots of nooks and crannies up there.  She edged a little out of the bathroom and flapped her hand.

“It went up there!  Get rid of it! ”

“Alright alright! Let me come up with a game plan here. Relax!”

I stood at the bottom of the steps and looked up the stairwell.  There it was.  On the ceiling.  Pressed flat.  Looking like one of the gnarliest, ugliest creatures ever invented.  I can’t do justice to how ugly a bat looks in real life, especially when they do the all flat thing.  It’s breathtaking.

“I see him.”

“Where is he?”

“He’s on the ceiling.  All pressed flat.”

She groaned at the thought.

I squinted to see him a little better.  Oh Jesus.  That’s bad.  How can anything like that exist?  On TV they seem at least semi-cute, with their little piggy noses.  That shit doesn’t carry over in real life.  I watched it breathe.  Even that made me sick.

Then it dropped.

Like a Stuka to a Warsaw suburb, it dove straight for me.   It happened so fast.  I had no time.  No time to stop myself from throwing myself to the floor in abject cowardice.  No time to contain the most shrill, scared-little-bitch scream that ever came out of a heterosexual man.   It was coming at me.  And all I could do… was freak.

Now, I’ve talked to some people and they’ve said that the bat might not have been going after me.  Just that that’s how they fly.  All swoopy and shit.  I don’t think it matters at this point.  All I know is one second I was looking at some evil creature with veined wings, the next one, it’s a  foot from my face.  I’m not sure how many people would’ve stood their ground.  Maybe some bat whisperer.

So I manage to peel myself off the floor enough to look around.  I can’t see where he’s gone.  Neither can Lori, because she’s doubled-over laughing.  Ha-ha-ha.  Okay, that’s it.  Laugh it up.  Yes, I screamed like a girl.  Ha-ha-ha.  It’s over.  C’mon.  Not that funny.

Apparently it was.   She was helpless.   I could see her launch into a new fit every time she replayed it.   I really wanted it to fly into her face.  See how she likes it.  I crawled to the phone and called animal control.  They said somebody would be by in 45 minutes.  We camped out in the garage waiting for them.  Lori occasionally busting up out of nowhere.

The damage was done.  She had witnessed me at my most chicken-shit.  All the tough guy stories would always be tainted now–tainted by her memory of me screaming like a little girl while diving to the floor.  Awesome.

The animal control dude went around the house with his lasso-on-a-stick, poking at pillows, and behind curtains.  Nothing.  That’s great.  We look like a bunch of liars, and the thing might still be hiding somewhere, waiting to make a break when The Man leaves.  I swore that there really was a bat, and that he was about to rip my face off and fill the wound with plague.

“Thing came right at me.”

“They sometimes just fly like that.”

We didn’t see anymore of the bat that night.  But that wasn’t the last of them.  The Winter of Bat Terror was only beginning.  We think a family actually moved in.  It seemed like every other evening there would be another one flying around inside the house.  You’d be walking down the hall at night and FLAPAWHAPAFLAPAFLAPA!   They would just bust out of cover like spooked pheasant.  Out from behind the laundry hamper and into your hair.  Holy pant-crapping surprise, Batman!   And every time, the shrill, high-pitched scream would escape as I threw myself to the carpet.

And if Lori witnessed it.  The laughter.  The shame.

I had a girlfriend, Bubbles.  She had a pet bird, name Myra.  If she let it out the cage to fly around the room, it would take every ounce of my male courage to not just drop to the floor and curl up in a ball.  Birds flying around like that, scare me.  I don’t know why it is, but it is.  And that was a pretty little feathered song bird.  Not a furry, fanged, warm-blooded, rabies and plague-carrying sky gargoyle.  So whatever original phobia I had with flapping creatures, it now took off exponentially.

After a while, we did manage to get down a routine.  If one suddenly appeared in the room, swooping back and forth, we would hit the deck.  Lori would cover herself in a blanket on the couch–in a little cocoon of safety.  Meanwhile, I would have to crawl on my stomach to open all the doors and windows.  Eventually, sometimes after an eternity of ducking and dodging , they would fly out.  I’d close the doors and windows.  Check my underwear.

One night I opened the garage door from the kitchen.  FLAPAWHAPAFAPAFLAPA!  Right at my face.  Yeeeeeeeeeee!  I hit the floor.  But this one is not content to just strafe me.  He is on me.  Like stink on shit.  He’s flapping here.  He’s flapping there.  I’m crawling, laughing, crying, screaming and everywhere I turn to get away, it’s inches away from my face.  It’s really trying to make a statement.

Meanwhile, Lori is a mummy on the couch.  She’s all wrapped up and not moving.   I’m almost hysterical.  Part cracking up and part flipping out.  I can’t crawl very fast because I keep rolling up into a squealing pill bug.

–Is this how I would have been on Omaha Beach?  I don’t think it tests well.

I can’t make it to the sliding glass doors.  I’m pinned down by a dive bomber.  It’s taken me almost a minute to crawl twenty feet from the kitchen to the living room.  And this thing is still right there, flapping away, everywhere I turn.

I decide to crash the cocoon.

“Let me in!” I shout, sticking my head under the blanket Lori is hiding in.  She’s got it tucked in underneath her and is holding on to it tight.  I can only get my head under.  It looks like I’m trying to take an old time photo of a locomotive or something.

“Let me in!”

“Get out, get out! You’re going to let it in!” she screams, and then…pushes my face out.

Oh, I see.  So that’s how it’s going to be.  Every man for himself, eh?  I’ll remember that, Missy.  No room at the Inn.

I finally made it to the sliding doors, opened them, and belly crawled out to the patio.  The thing was still inside, now just diving and gliding around the living room while  Lori was trapped on the couch.  Too bad.  Hard to enjoy your television programs all wrapped up in a blanket while a bat flies around you.  Yeah.  I’m sure glad I’m out here in all this wide-openess and having this big area of non-bat flying around me.

I gloated too soon.  Although the sliding glass doors were wide open, there was still a sheer curtain blocking its escape.  I went to move the curtain and the thing flew right into my hand.  Smack!  We were separated only by the flimsiest gauze, so I got a good palm full of the beast.  Enough to discern it’s fuzziness and heft.  Did not enjoy that.  At all.

You would’ve thought I had stuck my hand into a jar of cadaver snot by the way I recoiled in disgust.  My reaction was so violent that I made myself laugh.  Like I was watching a prank, but at my own expense.

“Yeeeeeeeeeeeeech!  I fuckin’ touched it!” I yelled into the house, “It hit my hand through the thing!”

This elicited a piercing scream from the mummy, which made me scream.  It’s a wonder the neighbor’s didn’t call the cops.  It had to sound like an ax murder.

Then just like that, it flew out and was gone.  There was a moment of silence, then we started busting up.  We laughed hard and strong and long.  Whenever we’d recall another moment, a new spasm.  As it turned out, that bat, for all its terrorizing antics, had made our Friday night a memorable laff riot.  Thank you, flying rat.

Shortly after that we found a dead baby bat behind the TV.  We figured that mama bat was trying to protect it, and thus the aggressive nature of her pursuit of my crawling and crying ass.  You see, kids?  It’s all a part of the wonder of Nature.

One evening, I was sitting in the den upstairs slapping some serious genius on canvas.  Just getting my abstract expressionist on.   Lori’s gone for the night.  I’m in my underwear, there’s a World War 2 documentary on, and I am painting one masterpiece after another.  Fuck Warhol and Kostabi, I was a one-man factory.   I toss aside the finished works while announcing their prices.  $1,700  $850.  $600. each, but I’ll let the set go for a grand.  I’m getting very rich that night.  It was now only a matter of connecting with the right buyers.

Then I hear something behind me, scratching.   One of the cats?  I turn around and see a white possum clawing its way down one of Lori’s dresses hanging in the closet.  It’s long rat tail running down the sleeve of the gown.  “Oh shit!”  I blur out the room.  I am gone, Daddy.  I slam the door to the den and go downstairs to call Animal Control.  I am not going to deal with that thing.

I get a recording, basically saying that if this has to do with a lost dog or cat, runaway horse, dead seal, or having a possum in your house, call back during normal business hours.  Shit.  I’ll have to call them in the morning.

In the meantime, I’ll keep the fucker trapped in the den.  I hope he doesn’t shred up my reasonably-priced priceless art work.  The TV was still on, and I didn’t put the caps back on the paint tubes, either.  They’re going to dry up.  Once more, events have conspired to stunt my greatness.  “Well, you always said, ‘Life sucks.’  This is just another example.”

The cats are out so that’s good.  They’re probably with Lori and her girlfriends having margaritas and nachos.   I cracked the door opened and look around, but I couldn’t see it.  Must be playing…dead somewhere.  I closed the door.  I hope it likes the Military Channel, because that’s all it’s going to get to watch tonight.

I went downstairs and turned on the TV.  Marines were blasting out Japanese soldiers out of caves with explosives and flame throwers.  Should I get my .22 and storm the den?  Just take the beast out?  Who am I kidding?  I have no stomach for that.  Bad-ass gangster, can’t even cap a possum.

After a while, I went upstairs to bed.  I was lying there for about twenty minutes when I heard it clawing at the den door.  Scritch-scritch-scratch.  Scratch-scritch-scritch.  Hmm.  Scratch-scritch.  It will stop soon.  Scritch.   Even animals get bored.  Scratch.

See?

Scritch-scratch-scritch-scratch-scratch-scratch…scratch…scritchity scritchity scratch scratch scratch!

Motherfucker!  I can NOT sleep listening to this shit all night!  It sounded a prisoner trying to dig out.  A demon trying to burrow into my soul.  Not the sleepy-time send off I want to have before tripping the light subconscious.  My sleep tends to be fitful enough.  I don’t need the sounds of vermin clawing the walls as a soundtrack.

I have to deal with this.  I need to TCB the scritch-scratch situation.  It’s two in the morning, and I have to evict a colossal rodent squatter from my beatnik art den.  I decided to build a corrida, some rodeo walls to run El Rato Grande through–on his festival-celebrating run out the front door.  I don’t want to chase this thing out of the den, only to have it run into another part of the house and hide.  I don’t want to lose sight of him.  So using couch cushions, ironing boards, pillows, big screen TVs, and suitcases, I rebuilt Hadrian’s Wall.

When I finished with this grand building project,  I reviewed the fortifications like Rommel.  I saw a weakness in the line right away.  The ironing board.  The pointy end created a gap.  A small one, but one a determined sapper with initiative could exploit.  Unacceptable.  I punched a pillow into the hole.  Okay.

Now I needed to bust in and clear the room.  I decided to enter through the second set of doors from the bathroom.  He wouldn’t be expecting that.  Besides the element of surprise, I was armed with a mop and a wicker basket.  The basket to stand in so the fucker couldn’t claw it’s way up my boxers.  When I told this story to my friend, Dave, he laughed.  “Dude! ” he says, “You made a wicker basket Kendo suit. ”

Pretty funny, I have to give him that.  Anyway, fuck him.  I was glad to have the mobile defense.  I could hold on to the handles and hop around the room.  Get close and poke at the possum with the mop.  It will be easy.

Well, this gladiatorial contest was not determined quickly.  For a while, I couldn’t get it to run out the room.  It would just rear up and start hissing and clawing, it’s red rat eyes on fire with hatred, blind rage and fear.  I’ve seen those eyes before.  Usually when I look at the toaster.

The nasty little bastard was scared, and I really didn’t want to hurt him.  I couldn’t go in swinging.  I just wanted to poke him along, down the little maze I spent forty-five minutes building–my two-story Habitrail.  Not such luck.  He wanted to go toe-to-toe with me, trading jabs.  Poke poke.  Hiss hiss.  I’m standing my ground. but so is he.  It had become a battle of wills.  A stalemate.

I need to get more aggressive.  I need to show this marsupial what the most dangerous animal on the planet is all about.   Make him think I’m going to get all Beverly Hillbilly on his ass.  Get some vittles on the pot.  Pick my teeth with his pointy tail.  I had to become the hunter.

I had to leave the basket.

Okay, that’s it.  I really have to sell this.  Here we go.  I hopped out of the hamper with a rebel yell.  “For General Lee, and Granny’s Possum pie.!”  I Picket’s charged him with my mop.  It worked.  His nerve broke and he ran.

I flushed him out of the den, and where did he bolt to first?  That first turn, made with the ironing board.  Right at the gap.  He hit it like a furry football thrown hard into the corner.  The pillow held and he turned.  Still pissed and hissing he took off down the stairs.  The corrida worked.  The possum  zig-zagged through it and ran out the front door.  Just as my master planning planned all along.

Victory!

It was almost three AM, and I was too tired to take down the wall.  I’d deal with it in the morning.  What craziness.

Well, I did it, I thought,  I took care of business and nobody got hurt.  A small success, shot-through with comic misadventure.  Just the type I seem to specialize in.

Lori came home early the next morning, before I took down the improvised bull run.

“What’s all this stuff?”

“You’re not going to believe it,” I told her, “Sit down.”

She laughed and laughed and laughed.  Somehow that made it all worth it.

Anyway, I’m grateful to all the little creatures that have brought so much adventure and merriment into my otherwise routine life.  Animals are awesome.  Even when they scare the fuck out you.

I’m beginning to believe the same thing about life in general.  It’s all how you choose to look at things.  So now I try to thank my cats for all the dead things they bring in to us.  I may not enjoy them, but at least I know their intention was good.  And it really is the thought that counts.  No matter how gnarly those gifts might sometimes be.