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winter 2006

Howdy folks,

The other day, I got an email from a reader who wanted to know what it was like writing a book with my wife. Well, allow me to answer that indirectly. Shirl's longtime friend and writing partner Carol Reynard quit years ago to go back to being a florist or flower arranger (whatever it's called); and Carol is allergic to flowers! That's the honest-to-god truth. Now are you getting the picture? Co-writing with Shirl is like wrestling a gator with hemorrhoids. It's more hazardous than walking up to Hulk Hogan and calling him a pansy. Unfortunately, Shirl gets to give her rebuttal to my rational remarks later in January.

Thank the lord that the season of gluttony is over and things can get back to what passes for normal around this madhouse. I think I mentioned last time about our new kittens destroying stuff-like the furnace. Well, Attila and Genghis (actually it is still Inky and Pewter; Shirl will not allow me to name them properly) were at it again just before the holidays. (I realize that you may be tired of hearing about these beasts, and so am I; but Shirl will not allow me to shoot them.) Even after they staged a fashion show by stealing her jewelry, she still calls them her "precious little treasures." Matt, our human son, agrees with me. They are neither "precious," "treasures," or even little anymore. At nine months Inky weights about seven and half pounds and Pewter eleven. And they still have about a year until they reach full growth.

Back to the furnace. This summer one of the beasts, probably Pewter the chewer was able to hook his paw inside the furnace mechanism and pull out a critical vacuum tube, which he ate. Without that appetizer the furnace/air conditioner would not run. Okay, I got that fixed. Then, a day or so before our friends the Voits were to make their annual December visit from Colorado, I was home alone. Shirl was out Christmas shopping, and I had just gotten out of the shower. It felt very chilly, so I turned up the thermostat. Nothing. I turned it up higher. Nothing. I turned the furnace blower switch to manual. Nothing. I raced down to the laundry room buck-naked. After an anxious search, I discovered that a plug far back on the side of the furnace was dangling loose. I bent over to put it back in place and I was apparently "dangling." I felt a sudden WHAP where no man ever wants to feel a WHAP. Pewter had been helping me to trouble-shoot the problem (that he had probably caused) but then decided to play. Thank god it was Pewter. When he plays with humans, he does not put out his claws. Had it been Inky doing the swatting, I would now be singing like Tiny Tim. In any case, I have vowed to do no more furnace work in the buff.

But ah, "sweet" Inky has gotten religion. The day after we had decorated the Christmas tree, we let the "boys" into the great room for their morning romp. Pewter took one look at the tree and gave a feline shrug and hopped into his large plastic "play" bag and started to wrestle something in there. I have never been able to find anything in that bag. But then, I'm not a blue cat. Inky brought me his favorite mouse for a game of fetch. I flick the mouse across the carpet and he retrieves it, dropping it into my hand. That morning, the lighted tree distracted him. Suddenly, instead of bringing his most prized possession back to me, he veered over to the Christmas tree, stuck his head under the lowest branches over the manger scene, stood their for a moment and then dropped the mouse directly in front of the little crib. I started humming "The Little Drummer Boy." Shirl was passing by and she thought my humor was "almost sacrilegious." Hey! I'm not the sacrilegious one. It's the cat! Not only does he make offerings to the baby Jesus, he thinks he's a clergyman. Oh yes, friends, even though he's never been ordained (that I know of), he administers the sacraments-at least one of them. He "baptizes" all of his mice and assorted small toys in the large water bowl we keep on the kitchen floor. He'll take one over to the bowl, drop it in, fish it out, and then scurry off, searching for another sinful mousy. As Matt says, both of these kittens are the weirdest, most destructive, most intelligent, and now (at least one), the most devout cats we have ever had.


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