Category Archives: True Tales

A walk in a graveyard

This little story happened during my third year in college.  It was the first year after I moved from the small commuter college to the main campus.  I was a standing Junior.  My grades weren’t great but I was passing.  I was a major in both Physics and Chemistry.  Right now to this very day that last statement sounds crazy especially since this university wasn’t particularly strong in either discipline.  It was true none the less.

I had quickly developed what was for me a large circle of friends.  We gathered a couple or three times a week for parties which were largely conversations.  Once though that first semester there had been strong drink.  That last alcohol ridden event happened later than this story.  Those conversations on occasion would turn to things spiritual.  There was a religious/new age flare to this group.  I was the only hard science or math major in the group.  One of the steady members of the group, a girl named Lisa, had a pressing interest in the world of the spirit.  She had a strong personality.  She was also an attractive woman.  My mother once described her as striking.

Almost everyday that year I walked passed the cemetery that was located near the center north side of campus.  The campus had built up around it over the years so that the cemetery was surrounded on three sides.  While it was still warm I would some times walk through following the road that entered and exited through the main drag that ran through campus.  During the warm time of year that road would be packed with traffic but by the time I left that campus through traffic had been stopped.  The problem was too, many drunken college students I think.

That cemetery had a few remarkable stones that dated back to the 1860s.  One in particular whose inscription was still clear to the eye laid flat.  I understood that this style of stone dated back to old Europe.  The stone had been laid that way so as to trap the dead within after all, we didn’t want mom or dad crawling out and wandering around.  Part of the inscription read:  She did not dieth, but only sleepth.  I though it was cool and showed it first to two of my male friends, John and William.  I think they were only mildly impressed, I mean it was just an old stone after all.  But as Halloween approached we got it into our heads that it might be cool to take the girls there, sort of as a freaky spooky Halloween walk.

I guess now that sounds a little rapey but that wasn’t our intention.  Of the six of us only two were dating.  That was John and Debra.  Calling it dating was a stretch though as she was born again and engaged.  The whole relationship would turn out to be a figment of John’s imagination, I think or a hoax maybe.

It was that dark holiday after sunset when we decided to take that nighttime graveyard walk.  It was a small party when the idea was suggested.  The event was alcohol and drug free.  It was festive.  I remember laughter.  I think I was the one who first brought up the idea saying something like “This would be a proper night for a cemetery walk.  It would soon be too cold for out door type activities.”   Someone else, William I think said something like “It is Halloween after all.”  He had this shy self deprecating smile that simply melted most girls hearts.  No one wanted to appear superstitious as we were college students after all.  Right at this second, as I write this, I believe that there were six of us but there might have been seven.  I believe I know that Donna or Laura were there but both might have been actually.

It was a warm late October night and that end of the campus was well lit so the footing was sure.  The graveyard was pretty close to the Quad were we all roomed.  It took about ten or fifteen minutes at a casual pace once we got outside to get to the east gate.  The conversation had slowed to quiet as we approached.  I don’t think there was a leader instead the course was chosen in some way that was quiet and almost organic.  In the beginning we stayed on the paved road that made a safe path through the oldest part.  This is were John had an attack of apoplexy over what he thought was a set of satanic symbols.  I can still here his hushed voice ridden with fear uttering the phrase “Satanic sigil!”  It is comical now but at the time I remember the icy chill that jumped up my spine when he spoke.  It took me about three minutes to cypher, in the dark, that the symbol was an eastern star.  I come from a family with a few masons as members and have a great aunt that was at the time in some sort of a weird dispute with the eastern stars so I felt reassured.  I remember the sound of my voice, the ridicule and sarcasm as I said, “Geez John, that’s an eastern star.”  I regret that tone today.

We didn’t have a path planned.  It was really more of a wandering that an established expedition.  John was at the front with Debra on his right and Laura, I think, on his left when he stepped into the graveyard proper walking in between the plots.  William, Lisa and I followed with Donna I believe.  I have a superstition.  I have had it since my first funeral at the age of 6.  I don’t like stepping on people.  Yes I know they’re dead and can’t feel it but I still don’t like to do it.  I might have said something to the effect, “I hate stepping on people” or something like that.  Being that this was the case I moved a bit slower.  It took time to pick your way through a graveyard with this type of a mind set.  William, Lisa and Donna stayed closer to me as the distance between us and the first three grew slowly.  Come to think about it now, the clusters of three up front and four in the back must have been for security or reassurance.  I think that graveyard walk was a lot more tense that it appeared to me at the time.

The Rec center some 20 or 30 yards to the east was well lighted and the main drag through campus was also well lighted.  This meant that the little road that traveled through the campus end of the cemetery was well lighted through there were areas of dark.  When John decided to walk between the graves and deeper into the cemetery to the north the light became patchy at best.  I mean that if you were walking you could find safe footing but there were lots of shadows.  The two groups, John, Debra and Laura up at the front and the rest of us some 20 feet back were having our own individual quiet conversations.  This created a quiet comfortable human murmur but I wasn’t really paying attention.   I was concerned with the people that lay under ground and not stepping in them.

It was nothing more than dumb luck really with the light like it was and my superstitious distraction.  The light had to be just right and the timing of when I looked up.  It was freaky really even when I think about it now.  What are the odds?  For as I looked up I saw two things almost simultaneously.  The first thing was Debra and Laura.  They said nothing.  They didn’t scream.  They simply turned around and took off at a full sprint.  I have never seen anything like that before or since until the moment of this writing.  There was no gaining speed they started at top speed.  The second thing I saw was John looking over his shoulder with a puzzled expression.  He was in mid stride his left foot heading for the ground.  The light must have been just right for there was no ground where John’s foot intended to land.  Instead there was an open grave.  William and I each caught one of the girls.  It was like being struck by a medicine ball.  If either of us would have been a shade smaller the impact would have winded us.  At the same moment I yelled at John, “OPEN GRAVE!” 

The warning shout was enough and John avoided stepping into the open grave.  He could have seriously injured himself.  He quickly joined the rest of us.  Honestly, at that moment, I don’t think any single member of the group wanted to be very far away from the rest.  That put a chill over the party I must say.  I remember some one saying over and over something close to “Please be empty please be empty.”   This phrase seemed to affect everyone.  She, who I believe was Debra, was pretty upset.  So was Laura but she simply huddled close to William like a soaked little bird seeking shelter from the rain against the bowl of a tree.  A that moment I determined to check the hole out and quickly walked up to it and crouched down and looked inside.  If the image of skeletal hands reaching out, grabbing me by the head and pulling me in just flashed through your mind’s eye that’s okay because it flashed through mind both then and now.

“Its empty,” yelled over my shoulder to the others.

I stood up quickly and walked back to the others before any had the opportunity to examine the grave themselves.  I carefully and quickly informed them again that the grave was empty.  They or We were all shook up pretty good.  Debra and Laura had become obviously quite uncomfortable.  John also had taken a pale hue and seemed suddenly less excited about the whole idea.  I didn’t wait and suggested that we head back to the dorm.  I don’t recall if  that night was ever mentioned again by any of us.  Well except me, right now for I have kept it secret over these last 33 or 34 years and that secret is, the grave wasn’t empty.  Only Meta had heard this story -previously and now you know it too.

Happy Halloween

Battle with Big Mac

Here is a weird little story.  It takes place in a McDonald’s in the fall (I think) of 1988.  This would be the fall after college and I parted ways and a month or so before my mother’s passing.  This would be when I worked night maintenance.  That’s was what the job title was though the work itself was much closer to Custodial.

Generally the shift was third and it started at 11 o’clock at night and ran until round 7 am the following morning.  The company liked to keep two maintenance men on the overnight shift for safety reasons.  This McDonald’s wasn’t in a high crime area.  It was on the south side outskirts of a rural college town in North West Ohio.  In the 1980s this campus had the second highest student population of any university in the state coming just after OSU.

I remember watching an occasional drug deal go down in the parking lot out front of the restaurant.  This would usually happen between 3am and 5am when the cops would head over to a Frisch’s on the east side of town to hang out.  This would be a perfect spot to make some joke about donuts but this was back when Frisch’s still made really good cheap food.  I remember this strawberry pie that was to kill for.  I remember it as “Home of the Big Boy.”

Also on those dark winter nights when I would take the trash out to the compactor there would be on very rare occasion a homeless person or two.  That was back when McDonald’s still used Styrofoam packaging on most everything and when they still had strict practices on how fresh the food had to be.  Once a Sandwich of any kind was produced it could only sit for so long before it was required to be pitched.  I don’t remember if it was 8 or 10 or 15 minutes.  So the food in the dumpster was pretty edible.  Generally when I encountered these people back in the coral where we kept the compactor I didn’t mess with them.  It might be tense for a couple of minutes before it became apparent that nobody wanted any trouble.

Like I said earlier, McDonald’s liked to have two men working the graveyard shift and that is how it was for slightly more than half the time I was working there.  It had one odd feature though that I had not seen since I was a child.  It was a life sized plastic Big Mac.  I think he was supposed to be some kind of a police officer, sheriff or constable.  It stood on a plastic platform that was green and meant to look something like grass, if memory serves.  He wore this English Bobby looking police hat/helmet on the very top of his head.  The whole thing was just a hair taller than I was.  I stood a bit more than six feet and four inches tall.  There was this metal button, really the head of a bolt that at one time, when touched, would cause a recording of the character saying something stupid like “Don’t forget to eat your fries” or some other shit.  I had been told, though I don’t remember by who, that it was broken.

It was during a time that there were only two people working night maintenance so each of us worked the shift in the store alone for two nights a week.  I don’t exactly remember the time of year.  My memory of that time is funny that way.  It could be a trick of memory or a trick of schizophrenia I Have no idea which.  I want to say that it was the fall but it just as easily could have been some time during the summer.  Right this instant, as I right this sentence, I am leaning towards summer.

I was in the store alone, it was late around 4 am in the morning and I was mopping the floor in the lobby.  I had worked there for several months by now and I was very comfortable in the store.  My mind wasn’t on my job.  I had turned my back and was walking backwards across the main lobby towards the side lobby that extended to the back where the bathrooms were located as well as Big Mac.

Somebody spoke.  I was involved in my own mental world so I didn’t here what had been said clearly but I did jump.  I had a strong chill run down my spine.  My first thought was that some one who worked at the place was playing a joke.  The manager would, on occasion, after being out bar hopping, sneak in and up on us to check and see if we were working.  It could have been him or any of the three or four people that had a key.  My second thought was that it was an unknown person with ill intent looking for some kind of advantage.  So I decided to walk around the store with mop in hand.  After making a full circuit what was fear had begun to morph into something more like rage and on my second pass I made sure that I was always between the space I was exploring and the way out.  I was still alone.

This would happen a couple more times.  It would be the second of these times that I would be down by Big Mac washing the windows in the exit door we it would pipe up again.  It said something like “watch out for the Hamburgler,” or some other shit.  I jumped nearly toppling the wash bucket turning and looking directly at the giant plastic Big Mac.  The mystery had been solved.  I moved my hand like I was about to punch the big dummy when I thought better of it.  He looked back at me those three buns and two delicious meat patties forming a dark evil grin.  The two plastic white and black cartoon eyes perched at the top of the sesame seed bun leering and taunting me.  It occurred to me that Big Mac only mouthed off when I was in the store alone.  I wondered if I had lost my mind.  He would only pipe up and sound off one more time after this before I decided to investigate.

One night when Ken the only other member of the maintenance staff and I were together working that I brought the subject.  I said that I was curious and I wanted to ask him a question.  He said that I should and I asked directly whether or not Big Mac was popping off while he was in the shop alone at night.  He said that it had.  Armed with this information I waited.  I didn’t wait for long before Big Mac popped off again one night.  How could such a scrumptious sandwich be so evil?  I told the manager about the incident.  He responded by saying something like “Its your imagination, that thing is broken.”  Ken backed me up with out prompting.  The manager said that he would get it fixed.

The fix didn’t take and Big Mac continued to mouth off.  It was like he was laughing at me.  I told the manager that there was still a problem and he said that he would take care of it.  This went round and round, Big Mac would taunt me and the Manager said  that he’d look into it.  It was getting frustrating and irritating until the last night and the last straw when I was mopping down the side lobby.  My back was to Big Mac the hamburger headed mother fucker when he popped off again.  I swear it said something like “What are YOU gonna do?”  It was laughing at me.  I know it was.  I jumped.  It had happened so many times and I couldn’t get over the fact that the damned thing still made me start.  I caught myself, the mop handle had almost made contact with that great evil hamburger headed monster but I managed to pull back.  That morning the manager was there at open and I told him about the incident.  The repeated that he would have somebody look into it.  I realized that this was a story, a fiction.  I responded that it would be good if he did.  I clearly stated that the next time that thing started talking in the middle of the night the fair manger would find it in pieces in the parking lot when he came to work the following morning.

The next night when I rolled in for work I discovered that Big Mac was gone.  Plastic green grass like platforn and all.  That was the end of Big Mac.  I had won the battle.  I didn’t need to fire a single shot.  Even in the darkest of times small victories always taste sweet and refresh the soul.

One last thing though, Big Mac only every talked when either Ken or I were in the store alone and as far as I know no one else ever had that experience at that specific store.

It is quite strange really.

Meta Mumbles on about a family pet named Chico.

While I was in grade school my grandparents had a rhesus monkey – there were times that they entertained the monkey, Chico, by sitting up a card table in the center of their living room and putting out on it a Sears and Roebuck catalog.  They would leave it there with the pages open.  That was a time when all sorts of things were for sale in their Big Book.

We would all sit around the room talking and watching the monkey browse through the pages.  He would turn each page and then carefully spread it out flat.  Then he would sit with his hands folded behind his back while exploring all of the photographs before him.  He would slowly look first at the left page from top to bottom and then the right, while chattering the whole time.

When Chico would come to the part where various breeds of dogs were pictured, he would get so excited that he sometimes flipped over backwards while he seemed to laugh – out – loud.  Then he would point to the family dog, Beau, sleeping at the feet of my grandfather.  Beau would quickly respond and go to the edge of the card  table poking his nose up by the monkey.  Chico would start pointing to a photo of one of the dogs, the breed would not matter, then point directly at Beau – back and forth his finger would go – apparently he recognized that they were all dogs – while laughing the entire time.  Beau would get excited and it seemed obvious to us, at the time, that they were communicating in humor.

And we want to think that we are the only ones that can make our thoughts known to each other.

The Doorknob Incident 1/28/2014

This incident took place a week ago Sunday.  The exact date would be January 19th 2014.

Meta had been made mention for some time that she was having problems with the doorknob, this particular door knob was part of the front door to our apartment.  She had stated, directly most of the time and indirectly on the rest of the occasions that the afore-mentioned doorknob didn’t seem to want to work, that it was sticking somehow.  In later discussions Meta would state that she had been having this for a couple of weeks or so.  Though it seems to my recollection that it was longer than that possibly a month maybe six weeks but I would be forced to acknowledge that the frequency of the incidents that she had been reporting had increased dramatically in the last two weeks.

I had no point of reference for what she was saying.  Better stated, I hadn’t experienced any problems with accused doorknob in any way.  I felt nothing when I turned the handle, no resistance and the door opened every time.  I did something I think my father would have been proud of, I chalked up the reports of her experiences as some form of female hysterical delusion lacking any resemblance to rationality.  This single mental act I had never done before.  When Meta told me something I always took it seriously previously, I may not have done anything about it but I didn’t just mentally blow it off and chalk it up to some weird assessment of female inferiority.  There could have been other reasons why the doorknob behaved when I turned it.  It could have been my massive strength being a he man and all,  maybe it was an  expression of my paranormal power, possibly some sort of spiritual blessing or odds are, just plain old luck.

I was operating from a deeply seated assumption that reality is some how intransient, unchanging.  This is an underlying operating assumption that I have been aware of in humanity for sometime and Meta and I had talked about it at some length several times in the recent past.  The phenomena, in the simplest terms, If I have an experience with the doorknob today and it works for me, indeed every time I use the doorknob it behaves accordingly then that is the way it is for every one all the time.  Its the empiricists interpretation of knowledge.

So it was sunday the 19 in northern Ohio during a january that is beginning to look a lot more like winters past.  Meta and I had decided to make a run for essentials, pop and cigarettes, we had everything else, before the weather turned again.  Rain and freezing rain over the next day or two followed by snow and a sudden impending cold spell combined with the lack of a car and the fact that neither of us are spring chickens anymore prompted us to move on a clear day in the middle 20s temperature wise.  She would run the errand and I would stay inside, I know, I am a lazy dog, but I can live with it if she can.  It was then that I experienced problems with the doorknob right along with her, it just didn’t seem to want to let go of the doorjam.  But we managed and it opened.  I stood in the hallway, we traded I love you’s and I told her to call me so that I could be at the down stairs door to carry up the supplies.  I watched as she headed down the hall and turned and began to descend the 44 stairs down to the street entrance.

It was then that I glanced down at the doorknob and turned it back and forth. It seemed ti me touch and my eye that it was working just fine.

“Should I leave it open until she gets back?” I thought to myself.

“You getting delusional now, hysterical maybe,” Stated another voice in my head.

(Don’t be alarmed, I am a schizophrenic and these types of strange mental activities are fairly frequent)

“Go ahead and close it, you can sit ’til she calls, be comfortable,” This was stated by a second voice.

“I don’t know if that would be wise,” I thought back, “I think there might be a problem with the door.”

“Don’t be a pussy, shut the door already,” Stated the first voice.

“Be a man and close the door, you look like a dufus,” That would have been the second voice.

I don’t know why, it seemed logical that everything would be just fine and the nagging sensation that maybe I had missed something was fading but not gone. This would be what NoahBoddee, my brother, would have refered to as a dumbass attack.  But the thing about dumb ass attack’s are that what everything has to be done first before you realize that every action was an idiotic endeavor.  Most of these last couple of sentences are reflections as I had put enough though into what I was doing.  It was just a nagging feeling so I shut the door.

I stood there, hand open only inches from the doorknob and I could not take my eyes off it.  The fading nagging sound had become quiet loud again.  So I figured I see if I could open the door and put the noise in my head to rest.  So I gripped the handle and turned, first to the left and then to the right but the door would not open.  There was no lock on the door, other than a dead bolt.  I repeated the cyclic move several more times and regardless of how hard I pulled I could not get the door open.

It was then I realized that I had a dumbass attack.  That I was in fact something of an idiot.

I Freaked.

first I tried the old driver’s license/credit card trick, I had always been able to use this to unlock a door from the inside, not dead bolts.  Fail.  It seemed to me that the license and the credit card were too flimsy and it had been a while, maybe I was mistaken.  Next came a butter knife, I could not get over how stubborn the lock was, after all this was from the inside, I was trying to break out.  The idea of Meta being stuck in the hallway only added to my overall level of anxiety.  Then two butter knives, a flurry of action, metal clicking against metal.  Meta would later say that she could hear the noise those two butter knives were making all the way down on the first floor.

We had managed to make contact before she got home so that she would know the situation and the fact that I would not be downstairs to help her haul.

As soon as I am certain of the world it does something to remind me that I don’t know what I am doing, hell, I don’t know what I am thinking.

I played with the idea of taking the door knob off but I hesitated, our land lord is on good terms with us and I was planning to keep it that way.  It wouldn’t be until Meta herself suggested that I take off the door knob, after she had been sitting in the hall for nearly forty minutes.  I am not mechanically inclined, my brother constantly warns that I should never be allowed to handle tools.  None the less I found the proper sized Phillips and quickly removed the knob.  the internal workings would be different though as it appears the mechanism had sprung and had to be removed in pieces.

Meta would say later that evening that I should feel bad about the incident, that it could have happened to any one any where.  I don’t know about that.  It wasn’t until I explained that it wasn’t so much her being trapped in the hall or hauling the groceries up the stairs with out help.  It was because of the way I had blown her off, not taken her seriously.  I shouldn’t have done that.

I realize that this post is a little late.  I guess its taking more effort to get my sea legs back then I thought.

Remember, be blessed

Bagged Cat, Cat tales #3

I remember some time ago, while my mother was still alive, that my brothers and I use to, on rare occasion gather in the kitchen late at night and have a quiet party.  This would be myself and brothers 2 and 3 and long before brother 4 came along.

I cannot remember clearly if this was on the very first occasion that we did this, but I suspect it was earlier amongst these rare occasions.  Brother 2 or 3 would bring a bag of weed…you know, Mary Jane, Grass, dope, the happy plant or coffee or even chicken.  I wasn’t much of a dope smoker so I would bring beer.  It would be late, and any bags we might have would be tossed thoughtlessly on the floor.  Mom and Dad were well asleep by now but we kept the noise down to be sure not to disturb them,  We would smoke and drink, talk quietly and have a pretty good time.  It was one of these times when I first felt that all of us were all adults for the first time.  We were all in college, we all had jobs or one sort or another and the future looked bright.

I don’t remember what we talked about specifically but I do remember my attention drifting to one of the bags that lay on its side on the floor and I could clearly see the tail and hind quarters of Mrs. Fist or Fisty as she explored the bags interior.  I remember bringing up the subject of an old cartoon strip called “Fat Freddy’s Cat.”  A change occured in the conversation.  My brothers quickly caught on and before you could say Mixedpixel we had the cat, Mrs. Fist, trapped in the bag.  We were gentle with her and had managed to work the bag upright so that she was sitting on the bottom and she appeared to my eye as if she were about to lay down and take a nap.  Brothers 2 and 3 shot gunned Mrs. Fist two or three times each and laid the bag back down on the floor on its side and all three of us promptly forgot about it.  I don’t believe that Fisty or Mrs. Fist, which ever name you prefer, left that bag for the rest of the night.

It was some time later that we would get together a second time.  Maybe Mom was still alive and maybe she wasn’t as my recollections of what was happening in the larger world are a bit sketchy.  My brothers and I had once again gathered in the kitchen late one night with similar party favors and again began to enjoy each others company.  Once again the bags in which we brought the beer or the junk food were tossed on the floor and left there.  I remember there was a great deal of laughter.  We were still happy and still had a hopeful out look of the world, I think.

Again my gaze wandered and again I spotted Ms. Fist.  this time she was crouched in the bag in such a way that I could only see her part of her head and her huge hopeful eyes.  She stared at me and then her gaze drifted to first one of my brothers then another.  I pointed it out to both of them and I quickly became apparent to all of us that Mrs. Fist liked to party.  That is how the cat became bagged.

Political Dissident: Cat Tales #2

This story occurs, surprise surprise, in the kitchen.  In retrospect it appears that the kitchen was the heart of the house, though the may have been a second heart in the living room.  That second heart though, I believe was second in all ways. One of the larger groups of my memories always take place in kitchen some place.  I really like to eat or cook and to this day spend entirely too much time in the kitchen.

I want to say that this event took place in the later fall or winter as I remember my brothers and I in shaker knit sweaters.  They were popular at that time in the very early 80s under the name of Saint Johns Bay.  The design was simple, solid colors, blues yellows and greens.  Dad was in his overalls though which means it could have happened any time of year and I am just misremembering the sweaters though they weren’t actiually part of the story. The other thing that nudges my belief in sweaters and the cold season was that Mom had made a large pot of scalloped potatoes and ham.  This dish was traditional through the easter season.  Dad use to call this stuff farmer food, the meat, ham, and potatoes, sliced thick floated in a thick buttery cream sauce, believe me, if this dish is on your table you better plan on moving…I mean like running stairs, manual labor, shoveling snow. deep cleaning, scrubbing the tub or canning because if you don’t it will pile up around your waist faster than shit through a goose.  Needless to say it is still one of my favorite feel good foods.  It took me twenty years to figure it out.  I’m sure that seems strange to more experienced cooks.

As usual, we had all gathered, jockeying for postion so that we could race to our favorite chair in the living room in  front of the television.  Mom spent some time fussing with the pot.  Generally speaking, the men, myself included, were most patient with the pace of things when food was involved.  Dad was first in line, leaning over mother’s shoulder, which drove her a little nuts, practically drooling.  Myself and middle brother were back against the converted cherry gun cabinet bidding our time and little brother, arguably next in line had set his plate near the edge of the kitchen table.  Apparently it was too heavy for him to hold.

Now, Ms. Fist, or Fisty or for those versed in folklore, Scratch, was by no means the oldest cat in Mom’s troop of rescued felines, she wasn’t even the second oldest.  But Ms. Fist had the kind of curiousity, that. if she were human, would have made her perfect for the CIA.  She was absolutely with out fear nor any sense of rational bondaries.  Thus in her quest to know more she jumped up on the seat of a near by chair and brought her gaze close to little brothers unattended and empty plate.  At this moment my memory takes on the tone of a strong close up lens.  I can see her nose flaring with rapid little movements as she excitedly scented the air ever hopeful that something tasty had been left on said plate.  When little brother noticed the intrusion by this foreign intellegence agent he became visibly angry and cuffed Ms. Fist on the top of the head.  I want to sat cuffed but to me it seemd like a harder blow.  She crouched down on the chair staring up at little brother through narrow angry evil eyes, ears clearly flattened against her head.  Her tail lashed to and fro three times but she did not give up the chair until little brother uttered a curse under his breath and raised his hand.  Dad had already filled his plate and had began moving towards the living room.  I had lost interest in the food for I had seen Ms Fist in action in the past and I knew she wasn’t going to stand  idly by and do nothing, she was a cat of action and I was intent on watching.

Dad abandoned his plate on the dining room table as he needed to take a detour to the bathroom in an Ed Bundy fashion.  Little brother was busy at the pot, it was the delicious ham and scalloped potaoes that held his entire attention.  I let middle brother pass me, instead watching as the cat steadily approached little brothers favorite chair.

She was devious and cool as she jumped up on the recently reupholstered chair little brother had since favored.  She looked around making sure that there was no witness, at least no witness that would testify against her and finally she pissed all over the seat of this over stuffed chair.  At this point I must state that a cat contains an amazing amount of piss, especailly with such a little body.  She must have been saving up for a rainy day or maybe she was a moving extradimensional piss portal.  She could have put out a medium sized camp fire.  When she finished, her ears still angry but at mid elevation, her tale lashing, she surveyed the room one last time before jumping down to the floor and disappearing into the front hallway.  In my mind she most certainly headed upstairs where she could enjoy the spectavle and still avoid discovery.

Little brother, totally absorbed in his plate, walked in determined fashion to his chair.  He was agile and quickly turned round, keeping both hands on his plate and began to sit.  This was known as the hands free style of taking a seat or plopping.  His expression flashed with surprise and flushed with anger.

“Who got my seat wet?” He yelled.

I said nothing.

All things considered I had been favored by the Gods, at least I saw it that way.  If my attention had been diverted and I missed the intial cuff I most certainly would have missed the silent sabotage carried out by Fisty.  It couldn’t have been chance as I watched attack and sneaky counter attack play out as if I was watching it on TV or in a movie.  I never dropped dime on Ms. Fist.  No one ever even thought to ask.  That was the moment I realized that animals in general are far more intellegent that we people give them credit for.  Is it simply that people aren’t really paying attention or maybe the Gods made no effort to show them.  They possibly lacked the patience to observe and enjoy.  That sounds pompous as hell.  At any rate, I learned that there are many ways to resist a stronger oppenent and for the most part they don’t require physical violence.

Cat’s Tale #1: Haunted Drawer

There was a time, mostly at my mother’s insistence that we eat sitting around the kitchen table.  This was all that she wanted, a proper family meal away from the distractions of the outside world and this was long before cell phones and the internet.  And it was so until the advent of cable.  There were other factors as well, Mom and Dad were both growing a bit older and getting progressively more tired with each passing week and even though there was cable in our little home town we didn’t actually subscribe until my junior year in high school which paralleled the level of exhaustion my parents were apparently feeling.  So the family meal had moved from the kitchen table to the living room with out a peep of resistance from my mother.  It is at this time when the odd story I am about to retell actually happened.

We would gather in the kitchen with plates in hand wandering with a strange order about the pots on the stove and the lonely kitchen table scooping food and finding silverware trying not to rush.  Sometimes the starch was potatoes or corn or lima beans and sometimes it was bread.  The bread was stored in the bottom drawer of the cupboard in which the great stainless steel sink was situated.  The whole unit was added when we remodeled just after the purchase of the house, I don’t think I was ten and when I say we I mean we.  My parents didn’t believe in  hiring people to do work that we, including the kids, could do.  So the cupboard we all knew very well.  It was when brother number three fished the plastic bag of nickles bread from the bottom drawer, finding a couple of pieces for his plate and repositioned the bread in the drawer that the incident occurred.  He closed the drawer but the drawer, you see didn’t stay closed.  It instead slide open slowly as if pushed by some strange force.

Brother number three pushed the drawer closed with his finger tips two or three more times over the course of dishing more food unto his plate yet the drawer resisted.  Then he tried with his toe a couple more times and still the drawer softly slid open.

This had never happen before.  The drawer when closed stayed closed.  I know I was watching, but I was so absorbed in the struggle between human and inanimate that I cannot say whether or not my mother, father of brother number two had seen any of it.  Brother number three was becoming more frustrated and the struggle pitched upward in energy moving his emotional stated to outright anger.  That was my family for you.  When normal people would be frightening or loose interest and move on we became violent, just a touch.  Finally he kicked the drawer and its response was to spring forward and outward with more energy than it had demonstrated to this point and a cat, Booger to be exact, slide out from behind the drawer like a snake out of its hole and out into the kitchen in something of a dazed panick.

Did I mention my Mother was a cat lover?

Dad, being Dad, and aware of my mother’s emotional state, grabbed Booger from the floor and held her clearer in his sight with both hands.  My father stood somewhere between six four and six six so you can understand how high off the ground Booger was. She, Booger, was also dazed and confused and apparently a touch Acrophobic and she did what any disoriented and frantic cat would do and latched on to the nearest object which in this case happen to be my fathers nose.  What proceeded belonged more in a three stooges short than  it did in reality much less the family kitchen.  Dad tried to push Booger off  his nose by extending his arms to their full and considerable length but Booger would not let go.  I could see that only one claw from each paw retained its hold, she would relax and allow herself to be stretched but she still clung to his nose as if her very life depended upon it.  It went on like that, some strange surrealistic rendition of an accordion the only sound to be heard was the laughter of my mother and third brother.

In the end it took the combined efforts of myself and brother number two to disengage the cat from my father’s face.

Is there a moral to this story?

Well, don’t in anger or under any circumstance, slam a door or a drawer because you can never tell what or whom may be behind it.

Cat Tales: The Mystery of Glass

My mother was a rescuer of animals, specifically cats, though she also saved dogs, birds, anything but rats. The word was, is important because she, my mother left this world back in 1988 at the age of 49. One of the things I remember throughout the years I shared with her was that she would rescue stray cats from the harsh realities of the outside world. Mom always looked at Cats as though they were Cats. They weren’t her babies or her Cat People. I guess it could be said that she had respect for the inner catness. As a child in this household I spent my first years surrounded by cats that were older than I was which at the time and in retrospect left a peculiar feeling with in me. Now cats live in our world, at least the domesticated ones and they seem to have an ability to relate to the big goofy humans in their environment. For my own sake as a growing child I realized that though cats were terrestrial they were also alien. I spent some considerable time watching them for in the simplest sense cats are more entertaining than television.

One of the cats Mom had adopted (Rescued from the street) was a small dirty white and brown female the She had named Ms. Fist or Fisty.  Regardless of what common popular culture may believe this name implies, it is actually a play on one of the many names for the Devil.  Scratch, Hobbs, Old Hobbs, Mr. Fist are all names for roughly the same place in time, back when there was still a culture in the western world.  Ms. Fist’s first litter, (surprise surprise), came very late that following winter or early spring.  There was one male and five females, brother and sisters if you will.  Now my brothers and I thought the Darth Vader would be a good name for the male and that should give you a good idea about when this all took place.  Mom on the other hand didn’t feel that Darth suited this particular cat and being that Mom had the only veto power in the house at that time, she chose the name, Twerp.  Twerp or Twerpy seemed an all around poor name and I looked at the unsuspecting cat feeling what only a boy could feel about such naming misfortune.  But it would become obvious by that summer that my mother was something of a prophet.

As early Spring became late spring Ms. Fist or Fisty, Being the representative of Satan in the neighborhood left her kittens, not yet weened, with the old family mutt Pooch or Poochie.  Pooch was a grey muzzled mostly Bull Terrier, Dashund and god only knows what else mix, who spent most of his time escaping from the backyard.  This may seem strange but Pooch, as far as I can tell, liked baby sitting six Kittens whose legs were strong enough to wander though they never went far from the old dog.  Ms. Fist would show up now and again to make sure that babies got feed but like any mother of six, she preferred to be elsewhere.  I’ll come back to this later.

The Kittens, under Pooch’s watchful eye and with Mom’s help pretty much weened themselves and my mid summer were pretty much grown and free range cats.  Now I can’t say when this first happened, I can only relate the first time I saw it happen.  It was after my birthday so it would have been later in July.  I was sitting in the living room one summer day watching television, before cable, sort of in my own thoughts.  I was in my father’s chair with my feet up on the ottoman when for some reason I looked to my left down the long hall to the front door.  It was a warm bright day so the door had been left open.  The bright outside could be seen through the lower glass pane in the storm door.  That pane was always hard to keep clean between the mud of winter and the buggy grit of summer and in no way would I describe it as like crystal.  In the hall a few feet from the door sat Twerp looking out studying the outside.  There is this thing with cats that under general circumstances you can never really tell what it is thinking or planning.  To me it just appeared that Twerp was looking outside then sort of drifting off looking at the floor and wasn’t planning anything in particular.

The cat, Twerp, Jumped, much to my surprise, head first into the window, hard.  Glass and skull, cat skull to be specific, make a strange tinny sound when they collide.  The Cat fell back to the floor and ran up the front stairs and out of sight.  I figured that Twerp had encountered the mystery of glass and learned the same lesson that many of us do and that should be that. He had his first class in the school of hard knocks and I was sure he had passed.  I was wrong.  With in a fortnight, I was in the Kitchen and it was again a bright warm day so that the door was open leaving only the storm between us and the outside and again the bottom pane of the storm was glass.  The screen was in the top pane to let the fresh air in.  I was siting at the kitchen table secretly snacking on Dad’s treats that he took  for his lunch break at work and there again was Twerp.  He was again studying the outside through the glass pane.  What’s to think, I was just looking at the cat then SMACK!

He jumped, his head hit the glass and he dropped to the floor though this time he landed on his feet.  He must have been practicing.  To say I was surprised would be an understatement, I was stunned, my attention riveted on the cat.  Twerp’s ears fluttered between flat and fully upright as he circled looking outside, eyes narrow.  If I were to guess what he was thinking or feeling I would put it somewhere between mad and confused as if he were the victim of a truly sick joke.  He circled, walked away, walked back to the door, looked out side, smelled the fresh air, eyes narrow and ears fluttering the whole time.  Now I was figuring that he was beginning to figure out that there was something between him and the outside, a thing we human’s refer to as glass.  I mean really, isn’t twice enough?  It seemed to me that he was stuck in some weird holding pattern circling, approaching, backing away and I felt that this could go on all day.  I was about to return to my snack when Twerp, from halfway across the floor, took off at a run and took a truly magnificent leap.  The form and energy expended displayed his conclusion.  obviously he hadn’t jumped hard enough or high enough and thump.  Really it was more of a bang, I guess Twerp was truly an American Cat. Again he landed on his feet and after looking around, you know to see if any other cats might have seen, he sulked of, head held low and tail dragging.

At this writing I am forty seven years old and this story has stuck with me through all that time.  The thing is so odd that I just can’t shake it.  I wonder about Twerp today.  Remember their babysitter Pooch?  I remember one early afternoon that spring, stepping out to check on the animals which we did in order to keep a head of Pooch’s escape attempts when I noticed the old dog chewing on something.  Five kittens were visible and whatever the Dog was chewing on was a dark tiger strip.  Dogs aren supposed to hate Cats, Right, I mean that’s what everybody says.  Five kittens in sight, pooch chewing on something tiger stripped.  Oh my God he’s eating Twerpy.  I took of like a shot, Mom would never stand for this kind of behavior.  If Twerp was half digested then I’d have to hide the rest.  But what if Twerp weren’t ate yet, What then? I rushed to the rescue and as I got close the dog let go of the cat, looking a me panting wagging his tail, he was happy.  I leaned down to see Twerp, the fur of his head pasted down and slimy with dog slobber, eyes closed, purring loud enough that he could be heard from some few feet.  I should have known then there was something different about that cat.

By mid August the local downtown Gun Store whose name I can’t remember closed and auctioned of everything.  The Gun store had been there for a long time and in its possession were two large solid Cherry Gun Cabinets that each stood about thirteen or fourteen feet in height and fifteen or so feet in width.  The top, the largest of the two parts, had glass sliding doors and glass side panels while the bottom held sixteen drawers.  The unit broke into two pieces plus the sliding glass door for transport, thank the almighty, and my mother wanted, really wanted one of those cabinets, they were solid cherry after all, for the kitchen.  Now if the project was crazy and required a disregard for personal safety or rational spending habits then Dad was good to go.  Mom got her cabinet and that night, Dad and I hauled the bottom half into the kitchen and put it in place.  But it would be awhile for the top to find its way there as it was as tall as the door frame.  So it sat in the living room and the cats would wander around it and occasionally play around it.

Twerp had a sister that went by the name Booger due to a black spot on its nose.  My brothers and I, when seeing the Black spot saw a mustache and wanted to name the cat Hitler but mom would have none of it.  In hind sight Hitler might have been a better name.  Booger would literal antagonize Twerp.  Swat him, bite him, chase him around, push stuff on him til Twerp would get mad and come after Booger.  Booger took off like the wind running for her life through the house.  Now Booger was a longer leaner Jack rabbit looking cat and she could really get moving and she would eventually start to pull out ahead of her brother Twerp.  In variably Booger would run into the living room towards the gun cabinet with the glass side panels and as she approached the glass with Twerp just being able to see her,she would jaunt around the glass and into the cabinet where she would slow to a walk.  You can imagine Twerp’s excitement at seeing his tormentor slow and as he began to gain ground.  Twerp doubled his pace and ran right into the glass.  Booger would jog off while Twerp stood there, ears flat, low on his hind haunches shaking his head.  His tail would thrash from side to side as he studied the mystery through narrow eyes and careful sniffs.  This happened repeatedly, always provoked by Booger, until the cabinet was moved into the kitchen and assembled.  Maybe Twerp possessed some strange learning disability.

I would never learn if he ever solved the mystery as Twerp stopped coming home one late september day.  We never saw him again.  I don’t spend as much time wondering what happen to Twerp, that was over thirty years ago.  I do spend time remember Twerp’s struggle with the mystery of  glass for my own entertainment.  Some day it will teach me something if it hasn’t already.

Lump of Coal – A Christmas Story

I Remember Christmas past this night. There were particular traditions in my youth with my family. On the 22nd of December there would be a small subdued celebration with my grandparents Armstrong, or Gampa and Gramma A as we use to say. Grampa and Gramma were snow birds and on their way south for the winter. To that Mecca of seasoned citzenhood called Florida and they would stop on there way to see my many Cousins down around Columbus and Cincinnati. We would wait up, it was in my years before becoming a fullblown teen, on Christmas eve for Mom to come home. She worked in a hospital as a pedatritics nurse in those years back when my brothers and I were part of the church’s boy’s choir. We needed to be at the church early to carol before the beginning of midnight mass. It was always a short night and the day following, Christmas, we would all find our way to grandpa and grandma Zeirolf’s, or Grandpa asnd Gramma Z’s for a christmas day feed.
Grandpa and Gramma were practical people so the gift was always a big box full of clothes for good. That’s how mom would say it, those clothes are “For Good.” Translation, for Church, School, Weddings and Funerals.
Grandpa would have spend some days before christmas making Peanut Brittle from an old receipe that had followed him from the farm so many decades ago. I don’t remember much about the process except for the part that involved a hammer. The old man literatally glowed when he said the words “Hard Tack” or “Peanut Brittle”. I can almost hear his voice in my ear now. He also spend some time with Gramma’s quiet ever patient assistance making Bourbon Balls. It is my belief to this day that Gramma, who did practically all of the cooking and baking was more than capable of this task but there always seemed to be some quiet dispute about the amount of liqour required. I am under the impression grandfather won as I can see Gramma right this instant with her fists planted on her hips, head tipped ever so slightly, lips bordering on a pucker as grandfather zestily poured more and more booze into the batch. At some point he would accuse her of useing too many eggs or milk or in some other way sabotagin’ the batch at which point gramma were softly buzz her lips, very close to a soft razzberry and join every one else in the living room. This series of events played out every year until my first year in college and to this day, in both grandpa and gramma defense I must add that outside of the two items mentioned and grinding horseradish, which is an experience in its self, grandfather only went in to the kitchen to ckeck his pyramid or to eat.
Gramma had undertook the herculean task of baking the weeks before creating cookies of everykind. Chocolate chip, peanut butter, sugar cookies shaped like stars and wreathes and a few sparse Santa’s, date bars, date nut wheels which to this day I have yet to reproduce successfully, Buckeyes, Gingersnaps, coconut cookies, snow balls, candy canes in red and white, anise and hazel nut and at this moment I can feel my stomach’s yearning. In my limited experience to date I have yet to encounter anything like those now ancient christmas cookies past. It seemes to be something more of legend than reality.
The house would settle by afternoon the heavy aroma of Kraut filling the air. It was Sourkraut and porkribs with thick knockwursts and hot dogs for those with weak hearts, pepperred with caraway and chunks of sour apples.  As far as Grandpa was concerned it was kraut for every major holiday except thanksgiving. Early yet on a very short day Gandpa would always gave his inspirational message for the new year. Ussually he would ask if myself and my brothers had been Good, always with a very thoughtful eyeing each of us like a skilled card player gauging his mark, to see if any tell might manifest, after which he concluded that we had been good, thou there was always room for improvement, he would announce “You’d better stay off the ball and on the stick and keep it that way.” With a “Little additional effort we could improve,” but, he would always pause and in his deepest and most menacing grandfather type voice he would continue, “Because if your bad you’ll get a lump of Coal!” This ussually brought sounds of disbelief and laughter followed by soft accusations of his veracity to which he would reliably reply, “You better believe it…It happened to me once!”

Grandpa held the tin, full of sticky Bourbon balls securly in his right hand, shaking it like a great rattle.  The heavily liqoured confections bounced within the tin as the old man looked over to my father, the other old man.  It was a long speculative look with a subtle air of question.  Dad would nod sticking his big hand into the tin to seize some of the alcoholic goodies.  The liquid booze wouldn’t enter the world until after dinner.  We all had some curiousity about those sugary confections.  Where they delightful to taste or exotic in their effect I would often wonder.  Judging from the hand full my father would pull from the can they must have been something truly magnificant.  Grandpa’s warning of the lump of coal would always simply end without elboration, that is, until my thirteenth Christmas.

I had started my freshman year in highschool the fall before and had been offered the oppurtunity to join the men’s choir at that time.  Choir was not the kind of thing I wanted to make a lifetime practice of, I thought ,and I declined.  Dad was siting, eyes bright and mood all around good, munching on his handful of alcoholic christmas tradition as Grandpa worked through his assessment of how good we had been that year ending with the haunted hollow warning of “The lump of Coal,” much like the ghost from christmases long past.  But this year there was a change, mundane as it may be on this holiday today, that night long ago it seemed dramatic.  First he thrust the tin of liqoured candies at each of the three of us one at a time.  Both of my brother’s wrinkled their noses, pursed their lips at the strong odor and shook their heads “NO!”  I took a few minutes longer eyeing the contents, the scent was strong enough to stand up on its own.  I wanted to try one of these things but I was having some indecision carefully looking for the smallest one I could find.  Grandpa shook the tin noisily.  To this day I believe that this action, the shaking of the tin, served the purpose of keeping life interesting.  Out of fear of appearing wimpy I grabbed one.  It was so sticky as to edge up on syrupy.  For at the moment I had found myself doubting my choice thrust apon the ridge of uncertainity.

My mother would clear her throat nervously hissing at her fasther.  “It won’t hurt them any,” Grandfather would assert in his own defense.

Grandpa hesistated making noises, a combination of thoughtful growls and grimaces indicating he was about to tell a story which was a rare thing indeed.  I was immersed in the challenge of the bourbon ball.  My Family always had one simple rule at the table, for any meal, if you weren’t going to eat it then don’t take it.  If you chose to fill your plate then finish it all.  The family was thick with farmers and wasting food was a big NO-NO.  What you don’t eat today will be made into something else tomorrow.

It was in the Summer, grandfather stated, when he was the same age as myself, thirteen.  There was a big reason why my brother’s and I had series doubt that grandpa had ever gotten a lump of coal because he had been distilling moonshine, his two eldest sisters, business partners as it were, had been running it all over west central ohio since he stood at the ripe old age of eleven.  If that didn’t get you a lump of coal what short of murder would?  It was the Prohibition after all.

It was the Summer, Granfather repeated, before the early havests started. That Summer he had been engaged in mortal combat with a young mustang stallion.  Great Grandfather had bought or traded for the horse and grandpa would get that far distant look like remembering a place so different than this very day that it could cause one to doubt that it was ever real.  It was a beautiful horse, prefect, fast, strong, smart with coal black fur.  Spirited Grandpa would say.  You couldn’t get it to take the saddle and it wouldn’t stay in the corral.  This horse roamed freely around the twelve hundred acre farm.  The old man, then a boy no older then myself saw this as a challenge.  After some thought and when there was available time from the massive chore work load as the farm was without mechanization of any sort, he put his plan into action.

There was a large orchard on the property, diverse in the fruit and nut trees that lived there, though most were apple, cherry and walnut. Remember Walnut, it is important later in the story.  So he found himself a tree that in his estimation, his word not mine, was high enough so that the horse could easily pass under and enough leaves to hide his presence from the ever alert mustang.  It would only be a matter of hours before the beautiful black horse would calmly wander under grandfather securely hidden in the tree.  The trap would then be sprung and he would drop out of the tree an onto the horse’s back.  The Mustang did what mustangs do, he took off like a shot not bucking like you would imagine but at a dead on run.  Grandfather hung on sans saddle and lacking bridal certain he had the horse right where he wanted him, Again grandfather’s words.  His face took a child like glow smiling to the point of laughter. The Mustang, it seemed was far smarter than grandfather had first thought.  Rather than running wildly around the 1200 acre farm the horse stayed in the orchard covering the ground at an unnatural speed until he found a low hanging branch on a cherry tree of just the right height.  Continuing the pace the black mustang took the farm boy under the tree, the branch sweeping the rider from its back and tossing him into a painful heap on the ground.

“I’ll be Damned if it didn’t happen,” Grandfather stated, a religious man, he rarily swore and such a statement was serious.  Yet he was laughing nearly to the point of tears.

“That Damn horse was standing not twenty feet away looking at me like I was some sort of a dummy, its head bouncing up and down snorting as though it were laughing at me,” he finnished now laughing so hard it would be minutes before the story would continue.  I, on the other hand still held the bourbon ball.  Feeling that this was as good of a time as any it took a half bite.  Compared to the men in the room it was a nibble.  I can’t describe the flavor.  It was terrible, much like I’d imagined the combination of brimstone and paint thinner.  My face must of had a most intense expression as Gramma offered to get rid of the rest for me.  Gramma was always there when life presented such seasonal difficulties.  We had completed the hidden hand off before grandfsather continued the story.

It would seem that the mustang and my thirteen year old grandfasther were as they say…”ON”.  Thus when ever Granpa had the time the battle would repeat.  He would drop from a tree, never the same tree.  The Mustang would dislodge him with a low hanging branch, rarily the same branch.  Of course this is only half the story.  The other half starts when a couple of boys form a nearby farm, (translate two miles down the road) actually witnesed an episode from this epic battle of wills.  One in particular by the name of Cleophis found the entire episode so entertaining as to edge to the brink of ridicule.  No one really knows how often Cleophis witnessed the spectacle but at one point he decided it would be even funnier it they set up an ambush.  As the story goes it was Cleophis and another boy who remains to this day unnamed, probably still in the witness protection program, who happened to be present on one occasion as the mustang again swept grandpa from its back.

This time though, they had equiped themselves with an arm load of green walnuts.  The branch took granfather of the horse’s back, he hit the ground hard probably resulting in a less then agreeable mood.  When he finally got back onto his feet and the ambush was sprung.  Cleophis and his companion started to unload the green walnuts like the german’s at Omaha beach.  Grandpa was surprized, at the very least, as a walnut impacted, I say impacted because these were farm boys that worked the field before tractors were available, they were extremely strong, so it was a hard blow to the side of his head.   Thank goodness Grandfather possessed a hard head.   Now grandfather was pretty quick on his mental feet and reacted instantly.

“I ran off towards the barn screaming bloody murder, like I might die at any minute,” I remember him smiling as he described this, “I was hoping they’d follow to finish me off.  So when I gets in the barn I find a two by four and hide just inside the door.”

I always imagine it as a chunk of wood a few feet long, he wasn’t specific.

“When Cleophis stuck his head inside the barn door to see where I was…Well…I hit him.” Grandfather spread his arms appart, “BANG…I put everything I had into it.”

Apparently they had to call a doctor.  You know how the story ends I guess.  That Chriustmas Grandpa didn’t get a new clean shirt or a freash orange like usual.  Instead it was a lonely lump of coal in the bottom of his stocking and now you know why.  I think Cleophis survived the ordeal only slightly worse for wear.  And The Black Mustang…Well I don’t believe they ever did get that animal to take a saddle.

Just keep that lump of coal in mind, before things really get crazy.

The Nazi Super Mouse

Just a few days ago I passed my 47th birthday and the events around my birthday better than ten years ago came to mind.  The events are true and the names have been changed to protect those involved.

Meta, Roman, my brother, and I were sitting talking among ourselves one evening in the late 90s.  I remember that the television was on but the sound  had been muted.  Whatever the topic of that night’s conversation was has long escaped me.  May be it fled my memory after the image of a small, furry, shadow with distinct brown highlights darted across the threshold of a closed door, the door to the outside, bathed in bright illumination.

I jumped to my feet and yelled, “Mouse!”

After which I tore into a stack of makeshift shelves, Roman was quick to join in the hunt.  Needless to say we didn’t find the mouse.  Roman, it seemed, was wondering if I had just had a hallucination as some schizophrenics do and I happen to be one that does.  Meta on the other hand was willing to admit the possibility, being that the appartment we rented was poorly maintained and near the water.  She would state that she believed me but for some reason, possibly my own paranoia, I had the sensation of being humored.  Rather than push the argument to its natural extreme I dropped it and everything settled back down after the makeshift milk crate shelves were reassembled.  Roman left the appartment that night semi-certain that he had somehow just taken part in a hallucination.  Meta went on about her night and the following days as if nothing had changed and I forgot about the mouse.  I want to say, that with in the week, but it might have been ten days, Meta saw the mouse for herself.

The little critter ran across a door way that sat between our spare bedroom and the kitchen.  She had seen it clearly and when she told me of the incident she stressed, I mean STRESSED, that she and the mouse could not share the same living space and as she paid part of the rent so it was the mouse that had to go.  I mean, she wanted the critter dead.  I can remember that look in her eye, it sends a chill up my spine to this day.  I felt that the mouse was a living being, just like her and I, and it had a right to live too.  She aggreed, just not in the same space she lived i. , Meta was very insistant.  I had no way of capturing the mouse and releasing it (That was my big point in the debate).  She stated again, the mouse can’t live with her, eyes blazing with a murderous fury.

“What did that mouse ever do to you? Humm?” I did my best to sound like an anti-war protester and worked up the saddest eyes I could.  It was my trump play and she softened like butter.  Mice had a right to live, didn’t they.  So the mouse and Meta and I lived moderately comfortably, for the next several weeks, everybody relaxed and there was time of peace and prosperity.  That was until what Meta and I refer to as the “incident” occurred.  It was nearing the end of the first third of july and my birthday, the 9th, was close at hand.  Meta made for the day of my birth a most spectacular chocolate cake.  This was a specific receipe that would come into creation from her precious finger tips pulled from the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa can once a year at best, like some bit of ancient magick.  This wasn’t just any cake now, as it was assembled from scratch, the icing extra, extra chocolate.  Now there are those in the world who don’t have a taste for such a thing and maybe prefer spice, yellow, fruit or angel food but for those who do it was a piece of the divine.  The chocolate so heavy that it could cause one’s mouth to seal shut and the only cure was cold milk or possibly vanilla ice cream.  She had finished it, whorls of thick black icing calling to me when she said, “I think I’ll put this in the refridgerator.”

“What!” I said, “Don’t put that in the fridge!”  I despised cold hardened cake.

“What about the mouse?” She says.

I surveyed the tables spindley metal legs that joined with the top well underneath and the smooth paneling that climbed up the wall beside the table and said, “The mouse can’t get on that table!”  I admit my tone may have been a bit condesending.

“It surely can,” She says.  To which I respond, “What is the damn thing? Spider man?”  “O’Kay,” She says, the vowels pulled in such a manner that I would later realize was dictated by experience.  So the next morning I crawled out of bed, pulling on my second hand factory worn overalls and made my way to behold my birthday cake with an anticpation hitherto only seen in children.  I approached the cake slowly, I know I was smiling, in the strata Meta and I found ourselves living in this was my gift and it was a big deal.  My gaze dropped down to behold what would be to my eye the most bueatiful confection ever conceived when my smile froze.  Tiny little foot prints crossed the delicatible surface starting at the corner nearest me.  It seemed that the little bastard had decided to go for a walk one day, but not in month of may.  There, in the corner nearest me were eat marks, but apparently, atleast as far as the mouse was concerned, the cake there wasn’t good enough for him. so he marched in practically a straight line to where he would try again.  The second eat mark was larger, the cake there must have been better to the rodent’s discerning palette.  Half the cake, ruined, the smile falling from my face.  Some would say the mouse was very rude, I would call it a travesty, a disgraceful, ungrateful assualt apon its ally.  After all I was the one that had saved the mouse’s life.  So, with steam puffing from my ears, I cut the cake in half, disposing the parts the mouse had definitely walked apon.  I then hacked a chunk from the remaining cake, six four frame leaning against the door,  surveying the appsartment as I, growling, chewed on a piece of cake that the little vagrant decided was good enough for me, Mind dark with thoughts of revenge.

My thinking was direct and simple, I had longer legs than it did so I was probably faster, no doubt I was stronger, I could bench 230 pounds and I had some college so I must be smarter.  Tool of choice? an Aluminum ball bat.  At first Roman assisted, each of us equiped with an aluminum ball bat.  The minute we sighted the mouse off we would charge metal thudding the floor like a giant’s club.  As it would turn out, a mouse which believe me is a very small animal is also very fast.  The little critter was a blur and we never got anywhere near him with the crude weapons we were using.  After a few days Roman lost interest and I didn’t presist much longer.  It seems a seige situation had developed.  The mouse was definately faster than I was, but I still had strength and brains.  While I sat watching and thinking it occurred to me that I had an insurgency on my hands.  The mouse had become cocky, when Meta and I were sitting in the living room, he would pause in the center of the doorway.  In clear sight, the mouse, would sit up like preforming for some photo oppertunity.  I realized that “live and let live” had turned into appeasement.  Since I couldn’t take him man to mouse I would have to bring in technology.  After all, its what humans are good at, creating technology, especially the killing kind.  The beginning of August came and so did the bit of money from socail security.  Along with paying bills we purchased a few mouse traps.

An effectuive device that had changed little in a hundred years.  I had been studying the mouse’s movements and after baiting the traps with peanut butter (everybody likes peanut butter) I carefully placed them and went to bed confident that the problem would soon be solved.  There are times in the dark of night or morning, sometimes even late morning, when a body’s stirs one into moving to answer some call of the wild, in this case, to use the bathroom.  Eye’s heavy with sleep my feet knew the way by memory as I took slow careful steps towards my goal.  For reasons today that still escape me, my eye opened just as I was about to complete my last step before turning into the restroon.  Frozen, before any thought could fully crystillize in my mind, there under my left foot, held still in mid air on its course to the floor, lay a mouse trap, still set.  I staggered back and stooped low to get a good look.  It had been pulled out from its place behind the utility room door and repositioned where we would have unknowingly stepped.  This had been accomplished without setting the thing off and the little freak had stripped the peanut butter bait.  This was no ordinary mouse.  Then a thought occurred to me, what if he had brought friends?  I looked suspiciously around the appartment, every corner, behind the furniture, even in the walls we could have, through my complacency allowed an army of mice to overwhelm our defenses.

I had set four booby traps for the mouse and each was stripped of bait and repositioned in a main walkway and remained set.  I can still feel the crawl of chills up and down my spine.  Whether it was a mouse or mice, they weren’t the ordinary kind.  Some sort of hybrid, probably engineered in some NAZI lab as an odd last hope to win World War II and now they were in my home.  Then an even more chilling thought, what if we had a rat?

Meta had wisely held back a few dollars from one of the bills we owed, probably the land lord.  It is vital in times of crisis to have a top notch Secretary of the Treasury, especially when raising the debt ceiling (gettiing a credit card) is out of the question.  With some of this money we purchased two mechanical rat traps.  Never have I seen a more menacing piece of home pest removal equipment before in my life.  As I set and baited the rat booby traps I was keenly aware that one miss step would, in the very least, break one of my fingers, one misstep could cost a toe.  They seemed incredibly sensitive and I grinned with the knoweldge that the tide was about to turn in our favor.  If this mouse were only a lone scout then his timely eliminataion could prevent a broader conflict.  But, if the insurgency was at full swing, well it could give us the advantage we needed.  Mouse traps, rat traps, all set, carefully positioned, baited, my wife and I went to bed and slept well.

What happened with the mouse traps would be repeated with the rat traps the following morning turning our hallway between the bedroom and the livingroom, the spine of our home into a mine field.  I realized that not only was the mouse or mice faster, they were porportionately stronger and, yes they were even smarter than I.  Brute strength had no avail and the mechanical type technology had been turned against us.  As against chemical weapons as I was, I realized that I had found myself in a corner and that a good solid weapon of mass destruction seemed to be the only way out.

Meta, with our last few dollars, purchaesed some Decon.  We had no pets or small children and under such circumstances Decon is an inexpensive and effective weapon.  It could be compared to Raytheon’s answer to cock roaches with less radioactive fall out.  Tense, feeling the apparent threat from the uber mouse, I carefully placed the poison in key junctions of his nightly runs, his Ho Chi Minh Trail as it were.  That was it.  No more mouse.  In the future if Meta tells me she can’t live with some critter, you bet I’ll listen.