Friday, September 18, 2009

Coffee Talk



So this will be the official first for two occasions: a) my first time writing a blog to participate in the Small Things Coffee Talk originated by Rachel Anne, and b) my first time writing two blogs in one day (the previous one was a copy-pasted free-write I found too amusing not to share about my psychotic kitten, Bean).
So to be perfectly responsible, I suppose I should admit that in doing this I am procrastinating on my homework, which at this point also consists entirely of writing. I have been doing a lot of writing lately, actually, all for school, but one piece in particular is stealing my heart as we speak.
I have long been struck by a feeling of obligation to record all of my grandmother's old stories from her childhood on a farm in the wild Northwest. These stories used to lull me to sleep at night with images of dappled ponies and wild boars and cougars. Now that my dear, gentle grandma is falling increasingly into the cruel clutches of dementia, despite a fairly healthy life, I feel the commitment pressing even more firmly on my already over-committed shoulders. If I do not write these stories now, my panicking subconscious whispers, I may never have another chance to make sure I've done them justice. But it seems all things are coming together not only for the good of those who love God, but also for the good of those stories that-- I am sure-- entertained him as well. I am taking a creative writing class now, in my last semester, finally having figured out that the class title, "The Art of Narration," is UMUC-ese for "Creative Writing." And here I was thinking it taught about public speaking or something. Silly me. Anyway, the first assignment for this class is a creative non-fiction piece, at least five double-spaced pages long. I have already written ten. I'm not done yet. Grandma's stories, seemingly locked somewhere within me since those days of pigtails and playing pretend, have come spilling out onto my screen in waves that I cannot staunch. It is like-- please excuse an accurate but slightly disgusting simile-- pleasurable vomiting. For once, in my writing, I am doing both exactly what I should be doing, and exactly what I enjoy doing.
:: Please hold on a moment while I rescue my mouse out from under my cat's behind. He likes to lay on the pull-out section of the keyboard drawer, and it makes productivity slightly difficult. Be right back.::
Okay... where was I?
Well, in other news, Johnny has bought a raft. For anyone who might actually read this and doesn't happen to identify themselves as my mother, relative, or someone in Sunday School, Johnny is my full-bearded, full-figured boisterous introverted maintenance-man husband and best friend of three-and-some-loose-change years. Every year since he was too small to record them in his amazingly accurate memory (I married a man who could tell stories almost as well as my grandmother), Johnny and his family have made the half-day journey to an RV park on the shore of Chincoteague Island in Delaware. Since I have known them, I have gone along three times. This traditional vacation always falls squarely on the week of my husband's birthday, which makes planning for it either easier or harder depending on my personality type for that year. Anyway, the area is chock-full of wildlife, though I've never actually seen the wild ponies Assateague is famous for (Think the child's book "Misty of Chincoteague"). This wild life is largely scattered throughout the many inlets, bays, streams, marches, and estuaries that overrun the area, and is best witnessed from the safety and comfort of a persona boat or kayak. We tried the kayak thing, last year, and I was mostly okay, though I did experience a moment of stark terror when our kayak flipped (that was Johnny's fault) and I landed in pitch black water, briefly went under, and came up with salt stringing my nostrils and thick mud seemingly sucking me down into the depths. I have an irrational fear of dark water (i.e. any water I cannot see what is swimming in it with me). So, of course, my husband's fondest wish every year about this time is to get me out on the water with him and explore. I love my husband. I know what he is trying to do. He thinks facing my fears will negate them. And for all I know, he might right. With a couple thousand years of similar repeated overturnings, I may start to lose my terror of open water. But meanwhile, I can simply enjoy nightmarish imaginings of this years vaunt on the water in his new four-man blow-up raft. And in my mind's eye, it holds to its name and blows up just as we reach the the deepest part of the inlet. ::sigh::
In other news, against my better judgment I am going to post all over the internet (okay, just at the end of a very long blog that I hope nobody will finish reading) my latest secret: I want a baby. Yes, I, who have been infamous for my rantings against the idea of pregnancy, birth, and jumping on the trendy train with all the other women in my Sunday School who have sequentially swollen and burst with new life, am finally to the point of wanting a child. I blame Melissa.

My Cat

I asked my cat this morning if he was excited to go and have his boy-parts chopped off next weekend. Predictably, he did not respond, but sat tense in my embrace, pushing against my chest with his two small front paws like he had better things to do than discuss inhumane elective surgery. Jumping down to the floor when I released him, he sat cleaning those paws, as though doing his best to forget the inevitable event that was closing in on him. “Besides,” I said, “It’s for your good. We wouldn’t want you having babies and having to stay up with them screaming all night.” He was nonplussed. “Or, worse,” I said, “Becoming like Uncle Shane and getting some mama-cat preggers and running off on her. I won’t have dirt bag dads living in my house.” Again, the cat was silent.
He doesn’t talk much in general. When I’m clipping his nails (to avoid the cruel practice of de-clawing, which I opt out of more for the expense than the animal-PCism) in the bathroom, he gives me a fair earful of plaintive feline wails, of course. Once, he even hissed at me, full on pulling back his soft muzzle to reveal diamond-like shards of baby teeth, as though proving he was part and parcel of that same family of flea-bitten unfriendly strays I found in the window-well and called the SPCA on. But an earful of “No! Bad kitty!” and cuffs on his small head seems to have gotten across the message that backtalk of any kind is unacceptable with this mom, especially when she is cradling a two pound bristling ball of claws in naked arms just before a shower. Yes… I beat my kitty. I know, I know. Bad for his self-esteem. But I don’t see how cats have all that much use for a high self-esteem anyway. They’re born cocky, and could use to come down a notch in my opinion. And he still comes trotting back every time he’s swatted, conveniently forgetting that the same hand that softly strokes his downy underbelly is the one that slapped him off the dining room table five minutes ago. Cats are masters at the art of forgive and forget, as they are at climbing, stalking, and neatly trussing up small dead things as party favors.
I get sad when I think of his family. Of Mama Cat, escaping from that cardboard box where all her babies were stored, shooting across our apartment in the middle of the night and prying the screen-door open, jumping off the first floor balcony and orphaning her children as she streaked away into the night. Of Bean, sole healthy child among a litter of upper-respiratory infected angry little hissers. Of what the SPCA probably did with a bunch of little kittens who were born unhealthy anyway. But my baby was saved, and that’s a small good deed. Not a shot in him yet, yet he’s as healthy as a November wind. And just as fast, imitating his mom in manic streaks across our apartment, leaping out from behind the coffee table as I pass and ricocheting off my shins, proclaiming his proud “Rowr!” to the world.
My cat is psychotic. He fits in well here.