Sunday, January 27, 2013

25. Kissy the Klutzy Kat

This is based on the true activities of a wonderful cat we once had. In case you've been following the saga of my twice-repaired (new!) HP laptop it will be going back to HP sometime this week. But they finally agreed to send me a replacement. I just hope this new one does not have the same curse on it.  

Crash! I heard dishes hitting the kitchen floor.  “Oh no, Kissy,” I cried.  “Not again.” Our orange marmalade cat, Kissy, expressed displeasure by shoving dishes off the grey granite counter top onto the unyielding Mexican tile.  The first time it happened, I thought it was an accident.  He wasn’t the most graceful cat.  In fact, one of the reasons we picked him out at the shelter was the sweet way he had of falling over his own feet.   He became even klutzier after he rammed his head into our mirrored wall a few times, thinking he was head butting an enemy cat. 
            I thought the broken dishes were the price we had to pay for choosing a slippery footed cat and for me not putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher right away.  The third time it happened I was convinced he pushed them deliberately. 
When I suggested this to our older daughter, Lori, she argued, “Come on, Mom, he’s just a kitten.  He isn’t mean.”
“Yes, he’s still a kitten, but he’s getting bigger every day.  Look at him, his belly is practically dragging on the floor.”
“He’s probably eating too much.  We should put him on a diet.”
I laughed.  “Put Kissy on a diet?  Then we would see broken dishes.”
“Mom, you always exaggerate.”  She looked down to check her latest text messages while she continued to excuse the cat claiming, “He’s just an awkward little guy.”
“He may be awkward, but he’s also selective.   He only knocks over rimmed soup plates, not flat dishes or round bowls.  Haven’t you noticed that when you help pick up the pieces?”
No, I didn’t notice that.  If he is doing it deliberately, maybe it’s because he hates his name.  What self-respecting cat would want to be called, Kissy?”
“That was Dina’s choice, not mine.  It was her turn to name a pet.”
Lori scowled at her little sister’s name choice.  “She would pick a dumb name.  But he is a dumb cat.  Do you really think Kissy’s smart enough to pick and choose what he destroys?”  She rolled her eyes at my foolishness
“I don’t know why he’s so china specific.  Maybe the flat bowls are easier to swipe with his furry paws.”
“The next thing I know you’ll be claiming good old loveable Kissy is a genius.”
“Well, no, I don’t think I’d ever say that.”  A few days later I was not so sure.
I decided I might be able to keep Kissy from breaking things by shutting him in the laundry room with his litter box after we all went to bed.  That night Kissy sat with me while I stayed up late to watch an old tear jerker movie, Johnny Belinda.  My husband and the girls were already tucked away.  They had pantomimed gagging when I suggested watching the movie.   
Good, old klutzy kissy was always ready to watch anything and it was comforting to have a soft, warm, furry cat on my lap during the saddest parts.  But when the final frames faded away, I acted on my decision.  I gathered Kissy up, set him down in the laundry, and quickly shut the door.
I climbed the stairs to get ready for bed.  I was taking off my watch when I felt something brush my leg.  I muffled a shriek, looked down to see Kissy giving me an impudent look.
            Oh, I thought, I must not have completely closed the door.  I picked him up and trotted down the stairs to close him up in the laundry room again.  This time I tried the door knob to make sure it was latched and marched back up the stairs, sure he was in securely. 
I had moved on to brushing my teeth when I felt Kissy against my leg. Was he a magic cat?  How on earth was he getting out of that room?  I reached down and ruffled up his furry little neck and asked him, “What are you doing down there?”  Back to the laundry room we went.  I shut the door and made sure the doorknob was latched.  But this time I stood outside it to see if he could materialize through the door like a ghost cat.
After a few seconds and a few plaintive meows the doorknob started to jiggle.  I gawked at it.  The cat could turn a knob!  The knob jiggled and jiggled until it became unlatched and Kissy’s little head pushed the door open.  How did his paws do that?  I stepped into the laundry room and looked at the inside doorknob.  Hanging from it was a small purse Dina had left on it. Kissy had pulled and pulled on it, reaching up with his agile paws, twisting the knob until he got the desired result.  Escape.
            I thought of waking Lori to tell her Kissy was indeed a genius, but decided that revelation could wait 'til morning.  I carefully removed the purse from the doorknob and put Kissy back into the laundry room for the last time that night.  
                                                                    The End                


Sunday, January 20, 2013

24. The Magic of Old Books

“Books, Books and More Books”.  The beat up sign lured me in as flashing Las Vegas lights lure in the gamblers.  Perhaps I was a gambler, too; always hoping to find a precious, old book to add to my collection.  I pushed open the grimy glass door, smelled the familiar musty odor as a tinny bell rang overhead. 
            A balding man at a paper filled table near the door glanced up over his reading glasses..  “Can I help you find something?” he asked.
            “No, thanks.  I won’t know what I’m looking for until I find it.”  I smiled and stepped into the maze of bookcases filling the room.  Although narrow, the room seemed to continue a long way into the back.
            He looked down at the book he was reading.  “Just let me know if you need anything.”
            The cases and shelves had yellowing labels.  I kept going further into the land of books until I found a case of  “traveling narratives.”  My favorite bedtime reading.  I couldn’t afford to travel, but I could at least do so in my imagination.
            My Friday evening reward for getting through another frustrating work week was book store browsing.  I read and wrote technical journals all week.  I needed adventure in my week end reading.
            I stood, slightly hunched over to read the titles on the lower shelves. The books were tightly packed and one must have been squeezed in a little too much.  It popped out and fell at my feet.  I picked it up, “The Magic of Travel.”  Hmm, I thought, maybe it knows something I don’t.  It was only $1, probably because it was in bad shape and published according to the inside page in 1948.  After WWII when Europe was recovering and American women were being urged to stay home to give returning GIs a job.  It was written by Henry Rutherford, a former soldier.  He looked grumpy in his picture on the torn back cover.  I wondered if the title was meant sarcastically given he had been sent on his travels to fight a war.
            None of the other books I perused that afternoon struck my fancy.  I went home with just the one book.  The man at the door said, “It looks like you picked a good one.”  He probably said that to everyone to encourage them to return. 
            “I think this book wanted a good home, it landed at my feet.” But he just took my $1 and went back to his reading. 
             The book and I snuggled in for a good read that night.  The first chapter was about the country I had always dreamed of visiting, Italy.  It had everything--beautiful scenery, ancient history, friendly people, terrific food, famous art, and flirty, good looking men.  Of course the book was from the 40s so I wasn’t expecting too much relevancy today.  The first words I read opened my eyes and my heart.  The author was a romantic after all he had been through.
“If you dream tonight of Italy, you will start your journey tomorrow.”  I stopped reading to consider those words.  Could it possibly be true?  Was the book really magic?  I allowed myself to think about what a trip to Italy would be like.  I fell asleep with these thoughts on my mind and so of course did dream of Italy.
I usually slept in on Saturday mornings, but my cell’s ring tones woke me up
            “Matty, are you up?”  My best friend’s voice hit my ear loudly.
“Uh, yeah.”  I was now.
“This is Hannah. I’ve got great news.”  As if I didn’t know her voice. “I’ve entered us both in a terrific travel contest.”
“Yeaaah.”  She was always telling me about terrific contests.
“No this is for a Fantastic around the World Trip.”
“And what do we, or more likely I, have to do to win it?”  I asked warily.  I would not participate in any of those televised 'look like a fool’ contests.
“All you have to do is write an essay on why you want to win.  You’re a great writer.  You can win it.  And it’s for two.”
“I’ll think about it.” I started to put the phone on the bed table.
“You can’t think about it.  The essay is due first thing Monday morning.”
We spent about 15 minutes arguing about why I would or would not do it.  I agreed to do it so I could go back to sleep.
When I woke up a second time, I groaned and knew I would have to write something or Hannah would never let me forget that I had blown a trip around the world.  I didn’t have time to write a really good argument to win such a contest   Even if I wrote a terrific essay I knew I wouldn’t win.  I had never won anything in my life.
I started to get out of bed when my newly purchased book fell off the table.  It seemed to do a lot of accidental falling.  Could it really be magic?  I laughed at myself and then….
I looked down at it.  And thought a while.  Hmm.  Why not?  The author’s probably dead and nobody is ever going to read my entry, anyway.  It will make Hannah happy that at least I tried.  I rewrote the first chapter on Italy a little bit, a very little bit and e-mailed it off with the on-line form before the deadline.
Two months later, I panicked when I learned my entry had been chosen as a semi-finalist in the contest.  Hannah was joyful.  We were to be present at the naming of the winner at a Writer’s Guild Dinner at the Old Delmonico Restaurant.
I did not want to go to this event.  Someone was sure to recognize that I was a plagiarist and arrest me or something terrible.  This proved that no one ever read contest entries.  They were just pulled from a barrel. But Hannah insisted we go.  Perhaps I could withdraw my entry. 
Hannah and I were seated at the front table with the other semi-finalists, I felt my feet shaking.  I could not stand up.  The judges for the contest were announced and filed out on a small stage.  One of the three was a white haired gentleman, with a perpetual scowl.  I squinted my eyes.  It was an older version of Henry Rutherford.  OMG!  What now?
I barely breathed until another contestant won the grand prize of the Around the World Trip.  I was left in my obscurity.  But wait.  This year they had a special second prize.  And I was named.  Oh, no, this was worse than my worst nightmare.
I stumbled up on stage to win my all expenses paid trip for two to, where else, Italy.  Henry Rutherford glared at me as he presented it to me.  I relaxed.  He’s senile.  He doesn’t remember what he wrote.  I was safe after all.
He leaned over and whispered in my ear.  “I was tempted, very tempted to vote you the grand prize.  But, in fairness, I just couldn’t do that.  However, it's gratifying to know that someone still reads my old books.”
                                                     The End