New Cat Report: Part 4: We Defend Against Cat Seizure

With no warning Mrs. Curmudgeon shouted; “Lock and load! They’re coming for the cat!” Nothing will light a paranoid survivalist type’s fuse like hearing “lock and load! I jumped up, spilled my coffee, and made a gesture which meant roughly “point me at the target and what happens next will be awesome…”

It did no good. Mrs. Curmudgeon barely registered my attentiveness. She just glared at her iSlab; angrily scowling at Facebook. This was not good. Peer too deeply into Facebook and Facebook peers back at you.

“They’re coming back! If they want this cat back they’re in for a fight!”

“Um… honey? Sweetheart? The Facebook people will not kidnap our cat.”

“When they come just be an asshole, OK? Let’s face it, you’re good at it.”

“Dear? My beloved? Cats are like zucchini. They breed in the weeds. They’re plentiful. Someone is always trying to dump half a dozen on the doorstep. There’s no shortage of cats.”

“What if they pull a Lassie?” She moaned and slumped into a chair.

Lord Skullcrusher Fluffington sensed her concern and jumped in her lap. The cat’s a walking comforter. In the months he’s been here he has defined a new job: Staff Psychological Comfort Critter. If you’re feeling down he’ll sense a disturbance in the force, find you, and induce mellowness. He’ll sit on you and purr and suddenly everything is OK. He’s a furry dose of Soma.

I was heretofore unaware we needed a Staff Psychological Comfort Critter. I stand corrected. I grudgingly respect cats for being incorrigible little bundles of claw and fang that kill rodents. I like the idea of miniature untamed lions prowling the living room. I’d rather have miniature dragons but cats suffice. Alas not all creatures are cut out to be Rikki Tikki Tavi. Lord Skullcrusher Fluffington (accepting the name the Internet has given him) is priceless for the unexpected reason that a household benefits from hosting a deep pool of ambulatory mellow.

Time to bravely face what men fear most; an upset wife. As I inched toward the dangerous but calming Mrs. Curmudgeon, the half somnolent cat bailed out. Apparently it deemed Mrs. Curmudgeon sufficiently comforted. Traitor! Leave me alone in the kill zone? You damn pansy!

This was going to take diplomacy. “Honey? Sweetheart?”

She looked at me.

“I only ask because I care. So… What the fuck?”

We’ve all been psychologically damaged by children’s movies about questionable pet ownership like Lassie or Snoopy. I’d never inquired about Lord Skullcrusher Fluffington’s backstory. He just appeared one day. (It’s my opinion that as soon as a cat eats food I’ve paid for, it’s mine.) Eventually I grokked that around Christmas Mrs. Curmudgeon had an acquaintance with a cat and he was leaving town; the acquaintance, not the cat. He was seeking a home for the cat. Mrs. Curmudgeon answered the call and that’s how we ended up with the world’s most psychologically adept mellowness generator.

Now, months later, the former owner reported to the universe (via Facebook) that the move hadn’t worked out. He was coming back.

“He’s not taking this cat!” Hissed Mrs. Curmudgeon.

I’m not good at remembering names, or people, or really anything. Actually to be clear I probably forget people because I simply don’t give a shit. (I presume they return the favor yet they seem to remember me. Disturbing really. But that’s another story.)

Time to determine who this threat might be. “Who is he again?”

“Gunter. Remember!?! He worked at the place and then he worked at the other thing and then that time we met them in the grocery store?”

I had no idea. Gunter sounded German. “The hulking dude with the shaved head. The guy who’s into MMA?” Oooooh, this could get interesting.

“No the other guy. Remember that dinner? The tiramisu?”

I vaguely remembered. A uniquely dressed individual, highly urbane, well spoken, probably weighed 80 pounds soaking wet. He was hanging out with some other guy wearing a tie. Mmmm… I like tiramisu.

“The uniquely dressed dude with the business partner?” I confirmed.

“Hello Neanderthal, that’s his boyfriend. And he wasn’t uniquely dressed. He’s a chef.”

“That explains the tiramisu…”

“He’s coming back. He might want his cat.”

“I don’t think we need to worry. The cat’s already here. It’s shedding on the couch as we speak. I can’t freak out about a chef and an accountant showing up and taking my shit. I’d be concerned about Janet Reno and the ATF, or maybe the Hell’s Angels, but not those guys.”

“And they’re really gonna show up unannounced here in the Godforsaken tundra…”

“Now you’re just teasing me.”

“…probably immaculately dressed and driving a Prius. They’ll approach our homestead. A setup which could legitimately be called a ‘compound’…”

“Well…”

“And he’s going to hop out of that Prius, wearing a chef’s hat, and stride past the hundred pound dog, and the rusting tractor, and walk up to me. Me?!?”

“Um…”

“And his partner is going to participate? Keep the Pruis running as a getaway car? Or initiate a flanking maneuver behind the oak trees? And the first guy will stand at our threshold and make demands? ‘See here my good man, hand over the cat or there may be trouble’.” I chuckled. “Unless he’s bringing a brace of dueling pistols I’m a level of ‘don’t tread on me’ a nice guy like that probably can’t imagine. Also he seemed pretty reasonable. Reasonable people don’t give away things and later demand it back.”

“You think so?”

“I’m sure of it. As a civilized being I’m sure he’s happy that Skullcrusher here…”

“That’s Lord Fluffington…”

“Which just proves my point. Nobody who names a cat Fluffington is demanding a damn thing of the residents of this house.”

“Hm.”

“Why don’t you welcome him back ‘home’ on Facebook? Tell him the cat’s happy here with us.”


Ten minutes later a delighted Mrs. Curmudgeon reported that the fellow was entirely pleased to hear the cat was happy and wanted nothing to do with reclaiming it. No muss, no fuss; “lock & load” false alarm.

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New Cat Report: Part 3: Portraiture

Mrs. Curmudgeon drew a picture of Skullcrusher Lord Fluffington.

Lord_Fluffington_1

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New Cat Report: Part 2: New Employee Training Program

Hours later I woke from a restful nap. The fire was filling my heart with warmth. The cat was purring like a motor. All was well. What had been the source of my bad attitude? I couldn’t recall.

At any rate I was happy and ready to talk. It was time to explain to our new hire the mechanics of our enterprise. Cats exist to hunt mice (and other problematic creatures). I began my new employee training program:

“I got a word of warning for would-be pets. When you join my command, you take on a debt. A debt you owe me personally. Each and every creature under my command owes me one hundred rodent scalps. And I want my scalps. And y’all will get me one hundred rodent scalps, taken from the heads of one hundred dead rodents. Or you will die trying.”

There was a sigh from behind me. Mrs. Curmudgeon:

“Have you been monologuing to the cat?”

“Well you see…” I stammered. It was no good. How was I to explain that this sleepy creature needed to toughen up?

She strode forward and scooped up the huge cat. It was unconcerned by her attention. We’ve got other cats that’ll flee if you hint you’re about to pick them up. They’ll scratch your eyes out if you try. This giant puffball just cuddled into her arms and glanced backward to me with half closed eyes; as if he’d shrug his shoulders but it was too much work. Mrs. Curmudgeon was talking to the cat.

“Just ignore him Lord Fluffington.”

Lord Fluffington?!?

“There are no titles of nobility in this house. That cat’s new name is Skullcrusher!” I huffed.

It was too late. They were both gone.

I lose the world’s bravest duck to Valhalla and the replacement is a huge cat with such a huggable personality the mice will beat him up. So it goes.

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New Cat Report: Part 1: Dark Before The Dawn

It was mid-January. Things hadn’t been going well. I trudged in from the snow to a cold and empty house.

The weather had been mild; at least for mid-January. The fact that it wasn’t flat out, breath catchingly, pipe freezingly, “dear God can we make it through this blizzard”, arctic was my undoing. The fire, usually merry and well tended by Mrs. Curmudgeon (who has a magical way with woodstoves) had been serially neglected. An injury (which is non life threatening and shall remain unspecified) made it inadvisable for me to fill the wood box. The mighty tonnage I’d amassed last summer was within sight but unreachably distant. Cheap fuel oil kept the house habitable but a furnace does nothing for one’s soul.

The interior wood cache, normally a fully stocked monument to thrift and a well earned promise of current and future comfort, was a half hearted little pile. A dozen stovebolts that’d scarcely make the night. It was like that most of the winter. Always an inch from depletion. In fall I found it worrisome; “winter is coming”. In winter I was near panic. In my (paranoid) eyes we were regularly one power outage from total destruction.

I need a fire. Without fire, cold seeps into my bones and I feel old. I wind up lethargic and prone to ennui. I become a washed up has been who’s made poor choices in life. Was staking my free and independent claim on the God-damn tundra a massive failure? You’ve got to be tough to enjoy winter. I need a fire to feel tough.

Mrs. Curmudgeon, perhaps lacking the aches and pains caused by my manly stupidity and associated hard wear, isn’t so jittery. She can toss a blanket ’round her shoulders and bask in the infernal glow of her iSlab. I cannot. That’s an unexpected lesson of the last winter. I detest television but apparently it coaxed others toward the hearth. Who knew? The blessings of cheap fuel and wifi conspired against me.

I tossed the last few logs in the woodstove and lit a match. These would burn, then they would be gone. There would be no more until someone got more. I’d get yelled at if I did it myself. I coaxed forth a dull heat and shivered. It takes time to heat a cold stove.

My largely unfinished basement is what my mind makes of it. When the fire is ablaze it becomes more than the sum of its parts. It turns me into a proud Viking in his hearty longhouse. I put my feet up, sip whiskey, and enjoy the well earned fruits of my labors. Winter (when you’re warm and well fed) is a natural time of rest. The fire becomes a place to prepare for upcoming challenges. Tending the fire (or basking in it) allows the mind to revisit old sagas and take pleasure in what’s been accomplished. It takes but a few cords of wood to recover from one year and become ready, eager even, to attack the next with physical strength and mental optimism.

When the fire is not regularly kindled it’s the opposite. I’m a Russian peasant inching through the calendar. Dimly clock watching in a drafty apartment. Counting shifts at the Glorious Worker’s Tractor Factory; sipping watery turnip soup and waiting to die.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful for cheap fuel oil. But warmth is not merely BTUs.

I slumped in front of the woodstove. It was finally radiating some heat. I’d have a few hour’s reprieve before the end of my fuel. Tomorrow it would all start again… with even less wood at the ready. I put my feet up and sighed. Might as well enjoy what I’d get.

Then, I noticed him. A big cat at the top of the stairs. It had eyes the size of marbles and a luxurious mane. Cats, like me, are attracted to warm fires. Was this the new cat I’d been warned of?

I checked my phone. There was the text I’d been sent earlier in the day: “We’ve got a new cat. Long story. Don’t scare him.”

The cat was full grown. In fact it was huge. It had the look of a cat thrust into new surroundings and unhappy about it. I can imagine. I have no idea what “long story” entailed but at the very least it meant upheaval from somewhere familiar, a car ride, and introduction to a strange house with a strange man muttering his sorrows to a metal box and a small pile of wood.

“C’mere.” I motioned to the cat.

Jesus the cat was big! It cautiously approached the stove, sniffing the gradually building heat. I watched him carefully. A cat that big; if it was a skilled predator, would be a force to be reckoned with. I expect cats to earn their keep by chasing mice. This cat, if it had the spirit to match it’s size, would take out deer and cache them in trees!

Alas it’s behavior didn’t match it’s mighty size. The cat’s fur was thick and gorgeous and untangled. Its ears untatterred. It approached me and the fire with caution but not the intelligent wariness of a predator. This cat was a lover and not a fighter. Just another mouth to feed. “Pansy.” I muttered.

Forgetting the cat and remembering my sore muscles I shifted in my chair. The cat, without pause, leapt into my lap. “Ooof, you’re a heavy one.” I complained.

The cat eyed me through half lidded eyes, stretched out languorously, and fell asleep.

There’s a second purpose to a cat, one I tend to forget. Warmth, of the kind that isn’t measured in BTUs is not limited to fire. I stroked the cat’s fur a few minutes. It purred.

I forgot my worries.

I fell fast asleep. Well played you silly pansy of a cat.

 

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Big Mike Bananas And Our Normal Lives In The Post-Apocalypse: Part 2

If you’ve been reading you know that bananas are genetically maladapted, poised to drop dead en masse, and there’s a pathogen that’s actively and globally killing every banana it can. (You also know I consider the zombie apocalypse just another shitty day instead of a reason to weep in movies.) Now consider this:

IT HAS HAPPENED BEFORE!

We’re already in a banana post apocalypse wasteland! I had no clue. Sorry to break it to you this way but our world is really just the miserable and tasteless wreckage of the banana disasters of yore. Please don’t cry.

Originally most commercial bananas were a variant called Gros Michel (Big Mike). A pathogen went ape on Big Mike. The ensuing planetary horticultural rampage drove Big Mike into the corner and stomped it to dust. Nobody remembers this because it was bananas and happened before the advent of cell phones. (Ancient history to Americans.) If it was dogs and happened last February we’d remember. (Though, given the average American’s grasp of history we’d forget Fido’s untimely demise by the next Superbowl.)

I’m shocked. Every banana I’ve eaten is the post apocalypse reconstruction replacement? Shit! It turns out I’ve been eating the Cavendish banana. That’s right. I’ve never had a banana that wasn’t the last ditch effort of the lab coat guys from the last banana war. God bless ’em.

Unfortunately, everyone agrees the current strain is inferior to the good old days of yore. I’ve been eating shit all this time! I had no idea my life was marred by inferior bananas.

Which brings me back to my original point. From various viewpoints we’re already living in post-apocalypse times. It simply doesn’t feel like tragedy because it happened slowly, or long ago, or the dudes in labcoats came up with a backup plan. The wipeout of Big Mike isn’t good news but we absorbed it so completely I had no idea.


We are in the “post apocalypse” of many things. Don’t give a shit about bananas? (How can you not like bananas? You monster!) Fine! Try different examples: You know that Christmas carol “chestnuts warming by an open fire”? Chestnut blight means you don’t get them in America. (They’re delicious when roasted by the way.) Think it’s only modern evil assholes at Monsanto that had this problem? Look up silphium which presumably died out around 200BC in Libya. (Gonna’ blame that disaster on America, GMOs, or global warming? Which is it hippie!)

Don’t give a rip about plants or trees? Fine! How about shit that killed people “apocalypse style”? The black plague pretty much hosed Europe. How can that not be an apocalypse? It doesn’t count if it happens to Europe? Fine PC freak, read up on small pox instead. Still bored because history is all old stuff? OK go ahead and vacation in Sierra Leone this summer and ask about Ebola.

Think I’m only talking about biology? Ask Europe about the fall of the Roman Empire. Our press tells me every election is the new improved precipice of doom but the fall of Rome is a done deal. From what I can tell it royally sucked for centuries. Eventually Europe recovered (to whatever extent you want to define recovery). Or at least it’s… you know there. People live there and everything. Think about it. People live right smack dab where the Holy Roman Empire collapsed and left everyone shitting in buckets for centuries until the black plague killed 2/3 of the population. In short, the “unthinkable” has already happened. Often.

Go team humanity! We’re hard core survivors!

A.C.

P.S. I really want a Big Mike banana just to say I’ve eaten one. (I also want a Woolly Mammoth steak but that’s another story.) In a world with Fed Ex, getting a “special banana” has got to be possible. They’re rare but not extinct. If anyone knows where to get one (banana or mammoth steak) drop me a private e-mail.  Note: in my climate I can barely keep the pipes thawed so don’t tell me to buy a Big Mike seedling and grow it. (Mammoths would thrive in my climate though. So if you’ve got any mammoths for sale I’m in! I’ll raise ’em up to market size in a jiffy!)

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Big Mike Bananas And Our Normal Lives In The Post-Apocalypse: Part 1

Pondering the zombie apocalypse reminds me of bananas. I love bananas. They’re my dirt cheap, yummy, easy to peel, oddly exotic, genetically maladapted fruit of choice. Bananas are one of many mundane things for which I’m thankful. I’m old enough to remember when bananas were relatively rare. (It was a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away.) Now they’re in every grocery store all the time. (Also they’re green… which is not yellow and therefore pisses me off; but that’s another story.)

I’m so irretrievably uncool that I ponder agronomy. Many (most?) crops, are precarious. Read up on it and you’ll start getting nervous. (You’ll also bore people on your blog.)

Light reading for those who actually care about agronomy. The rest of you can go back to watching "Ow My Balls" on C-Span.

Light reading for those who actually care about agronomy. The rest of you can go back to watching “Ow My Balls” on C-Span.

Basically every banana you’ve eaten is a clone. (I’m painting with a broad brush. If you’re a hermit botanist living on an atoll 500 nautical miles from Fiji and keep an heirloom banana tree locked in your sealed herbarium I’ll grant you a variance. Also drop me a line because we simply must talk!)

Since they don’t have sex, bananas lack genetic diversity. That’s biology’s way of saying “we’re out of ideas and poised to drop dead en masse”. (Insert joke about Republican party here.) If a pathogen figures out their weakness it’s game over. Perhaps a crop that doesn’t have sex cries out for the sweet release of extinction?

I’ve known this forever. I presume wicked smart dudes in lab coats are on the job to rectify this. I suppose they’re in the employ of “big corporate banana” and facing constant protests from smelly hippies who think kale in Whole Foods is produced by Gaia’s magic wand. Probably they’re ridiculed by people who work in marketing. “Oh you’re a banana scientist? Don’t ever mention your work to me again.”

Ideally they’re developing new strains (the smart dudes in lab coats and not the smelly hippies). Or maybe they’re splicing in genes from lemurs or sacrificing goats or whatever it is that agronomic mad scientists do. I wish them well as they struggle to keep civilization going. In the meantime I eat bananas fully aware that they could all die and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.

Recently I learned what I thought was a theoretical risk banana apocalypse is now happening for real. It’s progressing slowly. A pathogen called Panama disease strain TR4 (or as I call it “horrible doom to my yellow treat”) is running amok. Attempts to stop the spread have had disappointing results. I’ll bet dipshits who don’t get biology (which is damn near everyone) aren’t helping. “You mean the dude with the clipboard says I’ve got to sterilize a tractor tire? Screw him!”

Barring unexpected events it’ll slowly churn though cloned fields of bananas making them as commercially unviable as a Socialist’s tax plan. The unexpected event is really up to the dudes in lab coats. (Boring people in lab coats matter. We should have shrines to Norman Borlaug in grocery stores.)

So there you have it. Something bad is happening. It sucks. Dudes in labcoats are the last desperate line of defence. If they fail we’ll be reduced to eating turnips. Is that not the zombie apocalypse?

Stay tuned…

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Big Mike Bananas And Our Normal Lives In The Post-Apocalypse: Part 0

I only enjoy post-apocalyptic movies and books to a point. Eventually I get frustrated and start to rant. It goes something like this:

“OK fine! Almost everyone died when they dropped the bomb/loosed the menace/opened the magic vault. It was exciting and scary when the zombies/vampires/aliens were pounding on the door. But now it’s act three and you’re just wallowing in the tragic backstory. Dragons/infections/space Nazis are officially part of the world so man up and quit pretending it’s an extended campout.”

For example, if you want to engage me in a discussion of “The Walking Dead” I’ll lose it. I watched a half dozen episodes and tuned out. I wound up yelling at my TV:

“Nobody asked me if I wanted to live in a world with shitty features; frozen plumbing, rattlesnakes, and the AMC Gremlin. I just live with it. We all just handle it. We fix pipes, kill snakes, and burn an AMC whenever we get the chance. It’s no biggie. If there were zombies I’d handle them just like raccoons in the chicken coop. So would everyone else who didn’t die in the first two months. Mankind is a damnsight more innovative than a Hollywood hack’s limited imagination. We live in the world we’ve got and leave the wishing for hippies and John Lennon songs.”

Surely I’m preaching to the choir here. At some point in the zombie epidemic it’s time to build a goddamn anti-zombie fence and get your ass back to work. I give it a few months before we’d accept that the walking dead is merely an unpleasant part of the environment; like taxes, real estate agents, light beer, and speed traps.

I’ve a deep and unshakeable faith that homo sapiens is a creature born to be bad ass. (I duly note exceptions and pathological weakness in nutless twits who expect “trigger warnings”, “community organizers”, Republican party apparatchiks, people who give me shit about gluten, and pretentious jazz aficionados.)

In the long run the rest of us (lets call it “non-bullshit humans”) have overcome everything. Shit got real and the survivors figured it out. Otherwise the planet would be ruled by something more adaptive; maybe marmosets?

In my next post I’ll explain why Norman Borlaug is a super stud.

 

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