Clockwork Cat Fight

Every morning, Louie wants out.  He has an important engagement.  He has to fight Boris, one of the other neighborhood cats.  I’ve written about their relationship before.  Humans might recognize it.  It’s a relationship based purely on antagonism.  All they do is fight.  Or wait to fight.  That’s their deal.  Their mutual agreement.  To be sworn enemies.  Forever.

He's late. Hope nothing happened to him.

He’s late. Hope nothing happened to him.

Each AM, Louie patiently waits for Boris to pop his paw up through a warped part of our deck.  That’s the signal to begin a hissing, yowling and howling cat brawl–with each one giving and taking swats while ducking in and away from the fightin’ hole.  It’s an amazing thing to witness. Louie will claw from above.  Boris from below.  They’ll go at it like that for twenty minutes or so, their cries and moans echoing off the lake, which I’m sure the neighbors appreciate.  Ah, the soothing sounds of nature.  “Dear God, is somebody strangling a baby out there?!”

Sorry about that, but you never saw Marlon Perkins or Jim run out and try to break up a cheetah fight on Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  Oh hell no.  They stayed put–crouching behind some bush.  At least Jim did, while Marlon had his ass cheek parked on a TV studio desk in Nebraska.  The point is they only observed.  If they ever did deal with some lion, it was with a tranquilizer dart.  Tag his ear and set him free.  Back to a life of tearing apart Gazelles.  Eating.  Banging lionesses.  Eating.  Napping.

Back to nature.

And Nature always takes Its course.  Eventually, Louie and Boris grow tired or bored of the sparring, cease fire, and go their separate ways.  Until next time.

I’m glad they’ve decided to fight like this, with each cat relatively protected from the other.  It’s better than when they used to free-style it top-side.  That’s when they would really fuck each other up.  Fur tornado shit.  I’d feel compelled to run out all clapping and flapping trying to break them up.  Cat fights, whether in a whorehouse bar or on a sunny patio deck, are hard to break up, and it’s easy for a well-meaning bystander to get hurt.

So this is better.  And they came up with it on their own.  It’s a morning ritual I’ve learned to tolerate.  Even respect.  They obviously both need it.  Or Louie wouldn’t wait.  And Boris wouldn’t show up.  Right on time.

On his way to an ass-kicking

On his way to an ass-kicking

One morning, I saw the Blonde Beast hurrying over from across the street.  He was a little late for his appointment.  I figured I’d prevent him from showing up at all, thereby making Louie winner by default.  A victory without violence.  So I chased Boris off with a bullwhip and a club with a big rusted nail through it.  Then I went inside and looked out on the patio.  There was Louie.  Waiting.

Waiting for his hit of Ultra-Violence.  From his favorite enemy.

But now waiting in vain.

Because I ruined it.

I robbed the fight.

And denied him the fur-bristling rush.

It fucking broke my heart.

What have I done?  Me and my misguided do-gooderism.  That’s when I decided, if the boys want to fight, let ’em.

Scarred but not scared and ready for more.

Defending the Motherland from inside his pillbox bunker.

I remember when I was in 7th grade, I was trading trash-talk with this other kid, Mark Koroknay.  We were at the Lakeside Village pool and my mom was there.  She told us we should duke it out and that she would referee.  She lead us to a patch of grass where we could fight.  I remember feeling embarrassed that my mom was taking such an active part of our conflict.  I’m sure Mark was wary of the impartiality of her refereeing.  He didn’t need to be.  My mom reffed a clean fight.

After trading some initial blows, we went down to the ground, where he got me in a headlock.  My mom stood by, waiting for me to either tap-out or turn it, but I couldn’t break out.  The best I could do was to reach around and hit Mark in the side of the head– repeatedly rabbit punch him with my middle knuckle.  The harder he choked, the harder I hit.  It was a classic match-up, The Choke versus the Chinga-su.

We fought like that for a long time.  Planes flew overhead and landed at the airport.  A newly married couple opened up a joint checking account.  A retiree put on a second coat of varnish on a cabinet he built.  Finally, after our shadows grew long enough across the length of the lawn, my mom stepped in and stopped the fight.  She called it a draw, and made us shake hands–which we did.  And that was it.  No hard feelings.

Actually, we became friends after that.  Mark and I used to party together.  He was a cool, funny dude.  If you’re reading this, Mark, good fight, bro.  Was real close to crying “Uncle.”  Maybe my mom did rob you.

Now, I’m not sure if you could extrapolate a Geo-political policy based on these two examples of controlled aggression.  But I could.  That’s because when it comes to extrapolating Geo-political policy, I’m notoriously lazy.  I’d probably spend more time coming up with a jingle for a breakfast food than I would deciding the fate of the free world.

“We don’t have to rush into every conflict to play peacemaker.  That’s a good way to get hurt, and make everybody involved hate you.  Fuck that.  Let ’em fight it out.  But try to make sure nobody gets too hurt,” I’d tell my defense ministers.

Before turning back to rooting for my cat.

“Use your right, Lou.  He’s got a cut over his left eye.  He’s blind to your rights.  Right paw! Right paw!  Now left!”

High on post-fight euphoria.

Strung-out on post-fight euphoria.

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My Letter to Nicky

My Christmas card to you.

My Christmas card to you.

Dear Santa,

Sorry I haven’t written lately, but ever since my folks told me you were bullshit…well…I’ve felt a little stupid about keeping up any correspondence.  I know.  No excuse.  It’s not like it’s gonna kill me to write a letter and feel like an idiot later.  I should be used to it.

What with your 24/7 North Pole NSA surveillance capabilities, you probably witnessed me penning that lust letter to the four-eyed lynx intern at the acupuncture clinic back in ’95.  Seven pages of handwritten heart-pour.  To a chick I only answered questions to.  Questions like “How frequently do you urinate?” and “What is the consistency of your stool?”

But that didn’t stop me, eh?  From writing her. 

So why not write to my old pal, St. Nick?  Catch up on shit with a guy who doesn’t exist.  Maybe put in a wish list.

Can’t be any stupider than driving one-eyed, all the way down Agua Fria to her clinic, and delivering it personally.  Remember?  It was right after that disastrous week-end with Bubbles.  In Tuscon.  Drinking more than usual after that little visit.  Heart all hurt.  Ego-aching.  Embarrassed as fuck.

No wonder I freaked and went full-court press on the cat-eyed Jr. needle jockey.  I had to fall in love with someone else.  Right away.  And make sure she fell too.  Brought out the five-alarm charm that afternoon.

Shit-hammered on store brand vodka and Mickey’s Big Mouth.  Reeling and red-faced.  Crashing into the bamboo wind-chimes they had hanging up by the door.  My poison-reek cutting through the Mentholatum spa-smell.  The terrified and confused look on her face when I gave her the letter, slowly turning to pity when she sussed what it was all about.

Magic moment alright.

I also remember walking back to the car and realizing–with pristine divine precision and clarity–what a major fail I just perpetrated.  Fucking great.  Now I get it.  Twenty-two seconds after I finished doing it.  Not the twenty-two before.

It was always after, eh Nicko?  And then, like clockwork, you’re not too drunk to care.  All of a sudden.  It’s like the batshit buzz that got you in the jam, suddenly hightails, leaving you holding the sock. 

Yuuhgrhhh.  Every time I remember it, my guts twist.

Love to time-machine that one.  Hey, it was par for that whole year.  From what I recall.  Perfect candidate for lump of coal I was.

But I think I got some leather gloves, a camping ax, and a Hendrix box set.  Don’t know if that was a mix-up or mercy on your part.  But thanks anyway, dude.

Which brings me to why I’m writing.  As you probably know, I’ve been a little grouchy this holiday season.  Bitching and moaning about having to stand in long lines, find parking, gift wrap rhomboid-shaped gifts.  Post Office.  UPS.  The usual sleigh-bell blues.  And yeah I’ll admit, kind of sick of seeing your face all over the place.

Well, Friday I get hit with a stomach flu.  A real sidewinder.  All of a sudden I’ve got bigger problems than constantly losing the Scotch tape.

I go from bitching about small, irritating shit, to worrying if I’m gonna squirt out all my sacral fluid.  Major attitude shift, Nicky.  Capisce?

Lori’s gone to Europe, and neither of my cats have a driver’s license, so it’s toaster waffles and tap water for two days.  I’m laying in bed the whole time.  Bugsy and Louie holding vigil over their only food-giver.  The only one until January 4th, when the other one gets back.

I’m so very weak.  So very tired.  Can’t push the buttons on the remote.  Have to roll over on it in the bed.  Hope a good channel comes on.  But too sick to watch anyway.  Can only let whatever is on blend with my delirium.  World War 2 documentaries.  Gangsters: America’s Most Evil.  Full Throttle Saloon.  Lock-Up; Extended Stay.  Adult Swim.  Hour after hour.  Sleeping off big chunks, but awake enough for marathon series of fevered visions.

My mind wanted to show me things.  Pulled me out of my body.  “Check this shit out!”

British POW’s in Japanese camps.  Trying to build a bridge while dysentery wrings out their bowels.  A little brown boy lying on a banana leaf. Shivering with Dengue Fever.  A moth in a dead guy’s mouth.  Jungle rot.  Cholera.  Maggots in rice.

We visit a leper clinic in India.  A Russian prison infirmary.  African refugees eating sand.

Then I see paralyzed old people.  They’re in a skilled nursing facility–watching the shadows of twilight lengthen across the room.  Wondering if anyone will come see them.  Thirsty.  But unable to ask.  Sad.  But too dry to cry.  Trapped.  But unable to die.

Wheel of Fortune on.  No way to turn it off.

(I think that’s worse.  I’d rather have to build a bridge in diapers)

I’m telling you what, St. Boy, if I ever visit sick old people, I’m going to make sure to keep the mood light and laughy.  And bring them orange juice or whatever.  And make sure that the TV is on their channel.

I caught a glimpse of their hell, and it snapped me right out of the mopes.  This is a stomach flu.  I’m a recovered alcoholic.  This is nothing.  I got this.  I knew I was probably going to roll it up in 48.  But a lot of others are down for life.

Like some drunks I’ve known.  Lying there floored and helpless.  Alone.  Every time you make it to the toilet a small victory.

Sad sun coming through the window.

Not even cats to keep you company.

Death feeling like a real thing.

Sometimes being one.

So yeah, grateful for the pathogens that bring on hellish visions.  Grateful for my stomach flu.

And as far as any presents this year, don’t sweat it.  Being able to drive to the store.  Wash the sheets.  Hold down food.  Change the channel.  Big gifts.

And of course the cats.

Give my share to somebody who needs it.  There’s plenty out there, Nicky boy.  Believe me.

Anyway, give my best to the Missus.  Rudy.  The Elves.

Take some time off.  Belize.  Good banks.

Marius

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.

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.