Category Archives: True Life Misadventure

A Highly Ritualized Cat is No More

for some reason, I believed I would be awakened by the six am breakfast dance well into my retirement years. I hadn’t really taken into account that Kestrel, along with being Houdini Kitty that could work himself out of any bandage system when I had accidentally degloved the tip of his tail, was also Mathuselah Kat. We aren’t certain how old he was, we aren’t careful with those kind of records, but in our archaeological methods we calculated him to be between seventeen and twenty years old.

The warning signs came when he took to his downstairs bed near his food and waited for me to come down to him last week. It was even more disconcerting when he put up no resistance in a car ride to the vet’s, something that had always brought out his inner Tasmanian Devil. We found that he had dropped from fourteen pounds to six-and-a-half and his kidneys were failing. We prepared a regimen of nightly subcutaneous injections of fluids to ease the strain on his kidneys. We all foresaw this going on for quite some time as he was a recalcitrant old beast that would not easily give up his position as assistant and supervisor over my writing and Kit’s sewing.

The crash came Sunday. He could barely make the two foot trek to his litter box, moved close by for his dignity. He drank some water, but completely gave up on food. We still held out hope that we could nurse him back to health. I stayed home Monday, already fighting off an allergy-induced asthma attack. Kestrel had collapsed to the point of no longer being able to walk. That is when he started to cry.

It was not a pained mewling, or any other sound I’d heard before.  It was a single syllable conveying pleading confusion, a single utterance at the top of his voice like “Please” or “Help”. Since it came with the sudden betrayal by his own body, it sounded to me like “Why?” The sound pierced me right to my seemingly atrophied heart,

My wife and I took turns cuddling him on the couch. She stayed with him through the night when I went to bed in hopes of getting better myself. I heard him give out that cry several times through the night.

This morning we took him to the vet’s for one last time. He did not resist the medication and slipped into his final sleep without struggle.

I know losing a cat is nowhere near as wrenching as losing a child or a parent. Believe me, I have had the chance for comparison. Still, it is the first time I have wept in several years. It is more than enough travail to wrap up the year for the Matulich household.

Farewell, Black Prince, muse, assistant, living alarm clock, and unfamiliar. May you have many squirrels and birds to chase in feline Valhalla.

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“Oh yeah, there’s the second half of that conversation.”

The other day, I was at the Cube Farm the other day when the subject of a co-worker came up. This person, who I will call Michael, is an older man who on his best days looks like Agent Gibbs after being tortured in Paraguay for a couple of months. One of my teammates said that Michael had been looking out of sorts lately.

I mentioned that it was understandable. I remembered that he had lost his adult daughter some time in the last year. Having gone through something like that myself, I empathized completely. I had not gotten any of the details of his situation because we were not close, he never showed any sign of wanting to be close, and I don’t enjoy gossip.

The women in my unit went over that topic for a bit, covering the juicy and painful tidbits in what I charitably considered an attempt to comprehend his situation. Then, one of the middle-aged mothers said:

“My God, that’s terrible. I would just die if I lost one of my kids.”

Another woman said pretty much the same thing a minute or two later.

Oh yeah, there’s the second half of that conversation, I thought to myself. The part where my friends and co-workers set off another grief spiral with the best intentions.

I had brought the subject up, I know. This meant that, though my insides began twisting up on themselves, I really didn’t have the right to tell them in gruesome detail what does happen when you lose a child.

You don’t have the luxury of laying down and dying when you have another child that isn’t old enough to understand what has happened to everyone they know.

You don’t have the luxury of laying down and dying when you are the only one your spouse has to understand their pain.  When you are the only one that simply holds on and utters no helpful platitudes. You two go on in proximate silence, each afraid to bring up something that opens another wound, afraid to show that you are bleeding. When both of you are suffering, it eats you up inside to see the other in pain when there is absolutely nothing to ease it.

You don’t die after you lose a child. You act as if you were dead, no sign of grief, no sharing, no opportunity to lance the infection and get beyond it. Most couples who lose a child don’t carry on as a couple for long.

If you’re lucky, you both find a way to heal. Your life becomes a minefield.

Days and months go by without incident. Then, there is a little girl with pigtails like hers. Maybe, it is an older child with CP in a wheelchair, one that got much further than your child had a chance to. Maybe it’s just a child that is happy and alive.

You stop, then, though only blown up in your heart. You grieve, maybe even weep on a bad day.  Darkness prevails for a while. You have a bad day.

You leap back in the stream of normal life and feel it safe to talk about the good times, or the outlandish bad times that boggle the imagination. You pass for normal until the next time you step on a landmine.

Then, you grieve and get back under the horse. You might even write a stupid blog post.

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I Caught my Cat

Since our neighbor’s cat has taken up a haphazard Catch and Release program in the adjoining apartment, we have been having occasional problems with rodents. I’m not talking about the three wayward cavies we inherited from our son, dim-witted rotund beasts approaching a good size for Peruvian Barbecue. Though they take up roughly the same amount of floor space as our  love seat and offend my wife’s wolf-like sense of smell, the guinea pigs are not the rodents I am most annoyed with this week.

We have a mouse.

Having a sly, slinking, disease-carrying vermin is bad enough when you only have the evidence of gnawed waffle boxes and droppings behind the coffee maker. This one has gotten bold.

I was sitting at my desk the other morning with the cat at my right hand. We leave a stool there of just the right height to allow my to simply reach down and skritch Kestrel’s neck. His food bowl is on the floor two or three feet to the right. As I typed and the cat awaited the next round of skritches, something moved off to my left.

As I sat perfectly still, a small darkish blur loped out of the kitchen, past my book bags, and directly under my seat. Only then did it realize that I was there and zipped back out to the kitchen. My cat, descendant of ancient hunting cats of the African plains, remained in meat loaf mode on the stool, apparently lacking limbs, curiosity or any motivation.

That’s when the glue traps came out.

I set one trap on the counter where the little bastard had left fecal calling cards. I left one behind a piece of equipment that sat next the cat’s bowl. Two more were set in the space between the stove and the cabinet and along the path he took in and out of the kitchen. The open trays of sticky polymer each were topped of with a dab of peanut butter to taste and left to do their jobs.

Two days later and no sign of the mouse. I told my wife that I believed that the mouse had been intimidated by my reputation and fled to Argentina. There, he found a nice local mouse, settled down and had lots of little ex-pat mouse babies.

I left the traps in place, willing to bet on the side of rodent cunning.

About two hours ago,  my cat began acting more strangely than usual. He thumped around the hardwood floor, making a clicking noise like falling poker chips as he moved. As I got up and approached the disturbed but embarrassed feline, I could see a black plastic tray measuring two inches by four stuck to the under side of his tail.

For some reason only known to cats and the Goddess, our cat chose to wheel his hindquarters around behind the equipment in the living room to get another angle at his water bowl.  When he settled down to have a long slurp, he set his tail across the glue trap.

The big problem in situations like this is that the Catching is easy, the Releasing involves some pain and anguish. I snagged the beast before he decided to bolt and somehow adhere himself to a wall or the underside of a table. I took the tail in my right hand and the tray in my left. With utmost  gentleness, I tried to separate the two. Kestrel tried to imitate the tone used for the Emergency Broadcast System.

I pulled the cat free and found three large clumps of black fur held fast in the goo. His tail was not denuded, but there was enough hair to make one adult male eyebrow or a decent Charlie Chaplin mustache.

I still have not seen a second sign of the mouse, but I think the cat and the cavies have warned him off.

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In my Car after IT

For those not familiar with it, there is a charity event known as Red Nose Day. It is to raise money for sick children through comedy. On that day this year, one drug store had a bin of red rubber clown noses one could buy. I laid down my dollar for sick children everywhere and stuck the red rubber nose on the edge of the passenger side visor in my HHR.

Sunday, I took my son to see IT. (Sorry Sheldon, he couldn’t wait.) After two-plus hours of jump scares, music stings, and creepy atmospherics, I got back into my car to go home.

In the dark parking lot.

Alone.

I reached up to open the sunroof and let in a little cool air. That’s when I noticed the red rubber clown nose peeping out from the space between visor and roof.

My first thought was: “Oh my, how did that get there?”

I followed up with “Surely Pennywise couldn’t squeeze himself int a space that small.”

Which is why transdimensional psychic vampire clowns don’t hunt old farts like me. Not enough excess emotional energy to let out a shriek of terror when appropriate.

 

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Various People Looking Dumb at the Worthington Farmer’s Market.

A nice older woman speaking to the owner of a obviously mixed breed dog.

“So what kind of dog is he?”

“Brown.”

#

The author walks into a coffee house/art gallery the size of a supply closet. The name is redacted out of a sense of fair play. It sits directly off of the main drag of charming Downtown Worthington, a spot the pentagenarian passes twice a week. The pleasantly vague man with the black hat and the mustache says:

“So, you’re new here!”

“No,” says the very young cafeinnista, “we’ve been open a year and a half.”

The man with the black hat is feeling more vague and less pleasant.

#

The author dissembles by examining the art work on the walls: paisleys and polkadots painted on plywood planks. Rothko has nothing to worry about here. Considering how long he has been dead, Rothko has nothing to worry about.

Hoping to redeem some of his lost coolness in the eyes of totally uncaring strangers, the author orders a coffee. Not the usual ‘Murican coffee that he drinks night and day, that comes from a can you can use to store fishing weights afterwards. No, he orders something he’s never tried before, something experimental and cool that won’t make him look like somebody’s disreputable uncle who’s wandered off before morning medication.

It sounded like “Marquisdesado”.

As the caffeinista falls to her task with the focus and energy others might mistake for hatred of all Mankind, the author pays at the iPad and looks over the snacks left to snag the attention of customers that must wait while the Ritual of the Coffee is performed with stainless steel spoons, chalices, and foam. There are cupcakes in sealed plastic containers. Each treat is covered with hand-piped polychrome flowers and leaves, all very pretty and realistic. Almost a shame to eat them.

The day-glo orange labels on the  containers read: Mom’s Vintage Treats.

“Vintage,” says the vague man in a hat. “Does that mean they’re all really old?”

“No,” says the check-out person, “they’re just… just…”

“Vintage style?” the author suggests.

“Yeah. Yeah, inspired by vintage snacks.”

“So, they’re only supposed to taste really old?”

The checkout person stops talking.

#

“Marquisdesado up!” the caffeinista calls out as if the customer is not less than two meters away. Everything in this establishment is less than two meters away.

The vague man in the hat and mustache takes up his paper to-go cup, noting that he has received doses of Nyquil in larger cups. He politely thanks one and all and leaves while he is still allowed. He suspects there is a crawlspace filled with uncool customers below his feet.

The author waits until he is down the sidewalk and out of the line of sight before he takes his first sip. He has never been a member of frou-frou coffee society, and this will probably not be his membership ticket.

Marquisdesado tastes like burnt insoles and leaves the author with the same emotional hangover as binge-watching nun porn. If it hadn’t cost nearly as much as a pound of generic coffee, he would have thrown it out.

Instead, he continues to sip the bitter draft until it is gone and can harm nobody else. His nipples feel like they are slowly turning inside out.

#

The author wrote an entire blog post referring to himself in the third person. He wound up looking pretentious and dumb.

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Cliques

I don’t do well with people, as a rule. I don’t have social anxiety, per se, but my tolerance for pettiness and ego approaches zero pretty damn quickly, especially when there is no talent to back it up.

Cliques are the worst of it. In theater, publishing, gaming, and reenacting, cliques are the engines that drive the world. Fannish cliques are perhaps the most galling, cliques of misfits which say “We all like each other because we don’t fit in, but you don’t fit in in entirely the wrong way.”

Good thing I have my wife, my cat, my son and three and a  half jobs.

The truly annoying thing is that all the interactions follow the same blueprint and I keep going through it over and over a gain in hopes that something will change. Here’s the step by step:

1: Friendly overture towards group.

2: Snub, snipe, or incompetent behavior that has to be ascribed to malevolence because “really, how could these people actually be this dumb and run a ()?”

3: I, feeling miffed, point out they are acting in a cliquish/moronic fashion.

4: The group’s representative responds with outrage and sincere hurt that I should think so little of them and their inclusiveness.

5: I apologize for my boorish behavior and promise to make an effort to fit in and be all friendly-like in the future.

6: Second friendly overture.

7: Continued snubbing and incompetence, just to prove I wasn’t hallucinating things the first time.

8: I take up heavy drinking.

I could give you some examples of this, but even with changing names to protect the guilty, it would get back to them. That would be me returning to Step 3, and you see how far that got me on the flow chart.

 

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I haven’t had much to say lately.

SOMETIMES copySo, I’m leaving this:

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Run-ins with Rodents

Over the last few months, I have been having problems with wild rodents. My neighbor’s cat, generally a feline defective, caught a mouse. The cat had no idea what to do with a live mouse and ended up releasing it into the walls. We realized it had worked its way over to our side of the building when it started leaving little presents in the pantry that definitely were not capers.

My wife, being as adverse to vermin as she is, immediately pulled all the food and utensils out of the cabinets, scrubbed all surfaces with antiseptics, and then sealing anything edible in plastic. I was given the task of the interloper’s capture and execution.

I have never been fond of the old -style mouse traps since my teenage years. After a long evening of watching horrible horror movies, I was awakened in the early morning by a metallic crash in the kitchen.  A quick search showed nothing out of place and no rational cause for the noise. When I went to my parents’ room, to voice what I thought were normal concerns, my father taunted me with remarks about “The Curse of the Devil’s Kitchen” Mwha-ha-ha-ha!

I didn’t get any apologies later when I opened one of the cabinets and was bombarded by a stack of  Revere Ware. It seemed a mouse had gone after the cheese in a trap and  received its Eternal Reward instead. The torsion of the trap catapulted both wooden base and cooling cadaver into a stack of pots and pans which fell against cabinet door.

So, no spring traps to avoid re-living past family trauma.

I picked a few of the new “spin traps.” Little plastic death chambers the size of a hockey puck, they were reputed to quickly and humanely snap a mouse’s neck. Either that, or overwhelm it with vertigo, forcing it to run outside and throw up its cotton candy just like at King’s Island.

Several days passed without dead bodies or pink mouse vomit, so I moved on to the classic glue trap. We caught him in less two days, a single hind foot adhered to the bottom of his cardboard abattoir. I normally would have put him out my misery, but Kit was feeling compassionate. I put the whole trap into the trash and assured her that the rodent would be able pull itself free and have an enjoyable ride to the city dump where it would be able to start a new and loving family.

*

Shortly after that, a squirrel went sky-diving behind our garage. My son found it splayed out like the letter “X” flat on the pavement. Having seen me take in all sorts orphans and wounded critters, he tried to make it comfortable in a towel-lined shoe box with food and water close by. I came home a few hours later to find it a rigid ex-squirrel. I tucked him into his box. My son wanted to bury it in the garden once the weather cleared.

When I checked the box the next day, there was a rather large hole chewed in the top of the box. There was no squirrel inside.

I know that I made no mistake about it’s being dead; I could have driven nails with its little head.

My Arcanum Faire books are hip-deep in undead rodents, roadkill and sacrifices possessed by ancient demons bent on bringing about the end of the world. As amused as I am about tiny quadraped zombies, I refused to believe it was happening in my garage.

I checked the box more carefully, then. The tooth marks were on the outside, and  from the needle-like canines of a cat. My neighbor’s cat had gotten into the garage and made its own disposal arrangements.

God, I hate that cat more than the rodents.

 

 

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Housekeeping

There are some less-than-pleasant things one needs to do, even when all you really want is to lie on the couch to watch Firefly and massage your sinuses.

One part of that is the harrowing of the basement. It has been filled with fabric, costume pieces, and vintage garb for quite some. Those items sitting down there does us no good, so now we have a half-dozen bins strewn around the living room. Eventually they will be sorted, sewn, cleaned, and sold.

I also discovered that the other pages of this blog don’t include my author specific email address, nor any official link to my second novel. That too, has been corrected.

I live such an exciting life.

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Scary Man in Black Failure

The storm winds blew rough and ice-cold rains slanted across what should have been a festive celebration of arts and wine. The tents flapped in the breeze as the artisans hunkered down for the duration. The Man in Black strode through the mess like Death itself. The rain rolled off the leather on his back and shoulders even as it soaked into the wool felt of his hat.

He stopped when he saw the fledgling bird. Soaked to the skin, it laid on his back, claws to Jesus. The Man in Black scooped it up in his hands, felt how close to ice it was. He looked down upon it and murmured:

“Awww, the poor little thing.”

Okay, when it comes to looking scary, I can pull off the dour Man in Black thing, but when it comes to baby birds I am a cream puff. The Grove City Arts & Wine Festival was an ignominious wash-out, cold and wet and unpleasant. I found a fledgling sparrow at the base of a tree behind one of the tents. It was pretty much a sopping mass of down and naked feet.

I took the little darling back to bookseller’s tent where I was huckstering with a handful of other Central Ohio writers. As we waited for the weather to break, I built the bird a nest of paper napkins and secured it behind the display racks.

Eventually, the little twit warmed up enough to get rambunctious. Then, he jumped out of his nest, off the table and into the stream of ice-cold water that flowed through the gutter. I re-captured the bird, dried it off and set it to nest again. We went through the same cycle of warm, rinse, repeat a few times before I ultimately folded my tents and slipped away. I went to bed by six that evening, a shivering mess. I built the bird a nest in a super-size drink cup lined with toilet paper.

The next morning, my wife and I delivered the fledgling to the local wildlife rescue. The bird recovered but my reputation as the scary Man in Black never did.

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