Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Metaphor for Suburban Life

Well, I am good and depressed now, that's for certain. There are some things that just scream out "Suburbia!" to me. It always sounds like an accusation. Mowing the lawn is the most common trigger. I can think of no more soul-crushing activity. As Dr. Seuss said, "...Think they work you too hard? Think of poor Ali Sard. He has to mow grass in his uncle's back yard, and it's quick-growing grass; it grows as he mows it. The faster he mows it, the faster he grows it..." Ugh.

Anyway, we had a small crisis this week. It's been nice out there, as fall in New England so often is, so the family and I ate dinner outside in the backyard. Norman Fucking Rockwell, I swear, even the cats came out to enjoy the lack of humidity and mosquitos that make fall, arguably, better than summer around here.

Yeah, that's where the problem started. Let the cats out. Now, these are my cats, and, while they are not my genetic progeny, are definitely the product of a Livingjetlag-influenced environment. So what do we have? Cat #1, Grendel, bought at the mall in Cheektowaga, NY for $20, black and white, age 13. Cat #2, Hyde, taken from the Farmers' Market in Ithaca grey sort-of-tabby, free to good home, probably too young to start eating cat food when we took him but no one told us so, and he ended up having a lot of chronic health issues; age 13. Early this year, he lost the last of his teeth, which actually seemed to help somehow. Both of the boys are declawed. Neither is particularly bright. Raised in Buffalo, NY on a major bus route, they are indoor cats at heart.

So there we were, minding our own collective business, when Grendel spotted motion in the grass. He went to investigate, and found a mouse. He watched the mouse. He watched the mouse. He watched the mouse. At no point was there any hint of aggression, or any apparent ambivalence about whether he should do anything in this situation. Yeah, he's the mall cat. Then Hyde, Farmer's Cat, noticed his adopted brother's attention being fixed on something. Quite the little hunter, he circled wide around, then stalked in to investigate from the far side. He pounced. A horrid sound followed. Part cassette with both "FF" and "Play" pressed, part nails-on-a-chalkboard, part malfunctioning brakes, it was too much for Grendel, who said the cat equivalent of "Ew!" and walked away. Yeah, guess who's not the alpha male.

Now, we are engaged in the timeless, life and death struggle of predator and prey. We will witness the final products of, depending on your point of view, creation or evolution, the purpose. Also, we will metaphorically visit the meeting of The Suburbs and The Real World. What do we see? Well, we see the instincts of the hunter and of the hunted. We also see that the hunted, while at a significant size disadvantage, has little teeny claws. The Predator has no claws. The Prey has teeth, which, while small, can chew a hole in the side of your house. The Predator has no teeth. Fortunately, someone opens the Lambs n Rice for him. The prey, needless to say, got free, as the predator was unable to gum him to death. The predator caught the prey, again. More horrid squealing, more struggling, another escape. Another capture. Repeat several times, with the action occurring a little closer to the tall grass and mousy freedom each time.

Where was the Livingjetlag family the whole time? Right there, watching. We knew the motion in the grass was a mouse because I checked it out during the Grendel-spectator phase. The LJ family looked on:

LJ's daughter, age 8, burst into furious, hysterical tears. "I like mice!" she later said. She couldn't turn away, but was obviously horrified. She yelled at Hyde to stop. My response, because I am very possibly the worst father in the world, was "NO! Let him be a cat." Mrs. LJ tried to get Daughter to stop watching, since it made her so upset. Too logical for anyone in my family, so no one listened.

The end result, of course, was that the mouse escaped, entirely unharmed. I was glad for my daughter, but a little upset that I didn't get a chance to see what would happen to the mouse carcass. I like to think I would have gotten half. After all, I open all those cans of Lamb n Rice...

Your humblest and most devoted servant,

Really? You bought a cat in Cheektowaga? In Canada, cats are generally free, at least non-designer cats are. And Cheektowaga? It reminds me of watching the Buffalo news as a kid (we got it on the rabbit ears), Cheektowaga, Tonawaga, there was always a fire...
"The faster he mows it, the faster he grows it..."

Does it stand to reason then, that if he stops mowing it will stop growing?

You have had cats for 13 years and you don't know what would happen to the carcass? They give it to you, preferably when you are in no position to gracefully accept it. :)
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