The Hess Report

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Can a better wife be found? No offense to those others of you already married, but the answer is: I think not.

We're leaving to see The Return of the King in about fifteen minutes. Not only does fellowgeek!Joy let me drag her to a movie like this, she really wants to see it. She may be more excited about it than I am. And - AND - when I was having connectivity problems at work the other day and was unable to buy tickets, she took it upon herself to hook up and buy them.

Ah. Life is good.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Once We Had a Cat
Note: This whole thing took place weeks ago. Even at the poignant conclusion, it's all really over and done with, like Survivor, so there's nothing to be nervous about.

For years, Joy had been insisting that she really wasn't allergic to cats, or that somehow, if she indeed was allergic to cats, that such allergies were completely surmountable with a bit of moxie and good old American Woman Determination. Medical evidence and common sense aside, I guess you could think that and still be considered, uh, rational.

My objections to having a cat:
1. Joy could have an asthmatic reaction and die. In a man's world, this is the end of the list. But, even though James Brown would have it differently, this is not by a long shot a man's world. So...
2. More work. Much more. Vacuuming every single day. Cat litter. Cat training. Cat brushing. Fur cleanup. Cat feeding. Bird protection. Room accessibility management.
3. Travel constraints. Despite what certain members of my immediate family think, we spend an inordinate amount of our weekends gallivanting about Pennsylvania. For these trips, we would have to arrange for remote care of the cat, which care would not preclude the rest of us from enduring the feminine recriminations of leaving the poor thing by itself anyway.
4. The cat gamble. You can get a good cat. Or you can get a nasty one. Good luck. You have only your childrens' previously unscarred faces to lose.
5. $. For cat and food, litter, toys, vet visits and stupid things that no one should pay for when it comes to pets but lots of silly people do.

Good things about having a cat:
1. If you find a good one, they're nice to have around.
2. There may be some benefit for children and their future allergic states to having furred pets, though I doubt it.
3. If transdimensional invaders make their way to your home and choose to appear in the form of mice or moles, you are so covered.

But, as I said before, the whole discussion shouldn't get past point #1 of the objections list. And knowing that, if we got a cat, I knew how it would end. We would have it for long enough for everyone to get attached to it. Allergies wouldn't be too bad at first, but the uncleanable base of allergens would slowly grow. After about six to eight weeks, it would be more or less unbearable, and, after much denial, it would be acknowledged that the cat could not stay. Then the cat would go, and we'd be out time, $, maybe some health, and definitely some of our hearts.

And I finally agreed to allow a cat. It's not like I'm a tyrant and all decisions must pass through me, 'ere the other side they see! But getting a pet is one of those things that requires two-party consent. So I finally gave mine, even though I knew what would happen. Actually, it was because I knew what would happen. It was the only way to end the cat talk forever. Apparently, sometimes people become so emotionally attached to an idea that they just will not let it go, no matter what the potential cost, until they see it for themselves.

"Duh!" you say? Right. That's obvious, but every single one of us has done it, and will probably do it again, barring imminent death. Anyway.

So, we got a cat. Our neighbors are part of a pet rescue network that tries to keep animals out of standard shelters through a series of foster homes and adoptions. It works fairly well, so good for them. Of course, they probably have a half a ton of dog in their back yard on any given day. And there's no ordinance against that, so it must okay, right? Well, around this time, they had a cat. We adopted it, but told the kids we were only going to let it stay for a few weeks until it found a home. Because kids under the age of six are sooooo good at keeping their emotional distance from playful, cute animals when you put it that way.

We went through a couple of names (Purrcy; Lady Piper Purrington III; silly names from the girls), until we settled on Cleo. Very pretty cat. Looked and acted a lot like a Ragdoll or Ragamuffin. Friendly. Medium-long hair, but did not shed excessively. Let Lucy drag her across the floor by her tail without complaint.

I've seen a lot of cats. Cats, even ones that usually hide when guests come, seem to like me. They seem to really like Maddie and Lucy, too, so maybe my bloodline shares scents with gift-wrapped mice or something. But I've had lots of cats be nice to me. And this was (please invoke Comic Book Guy voice) the Best. Cat. Ever. I'm not kidding. Those of you who don't like cats at all wouldn't appreciate a list of what would make the Best Car Ever, and those of you who do don't need one. The unopinionated may feel free to rot in the indecisive, indifferent Hell of their choosing.

Of course, you know what's coming. We couldn't keep the cat. Around week five or six, there were a couple of asthma attacks, and the rationalizations began almost immediately after they were over. "I just shouldn't have vacuumed and dusted on the same day..." or "It was my fault - I shouldn't have brushed her and petted her so much last night." The truth was that people who are allergic to cats cannot live with cats. I could tell that sad!Joy knew it was time for Cleo to go. But she was trying everything she could think of in order to keep the cat for me. And that wasn't going to happen. Cleo really was the Best Cat Ever, and Joy knew it, and she knew how much I liked having a cat. Oh wait, did I say "liked?" Hmmm...

There were two ways I could have done it. The first would have been to regard this simply as an exercise in proving my point that having a cat would not work. The cat would be something to be tolerated, a necessary portion of a lesson long wanting explication. Right. Or, since I really like a good cat, I could enjoy having it in my house until such time as it inevitably had to go. Those of you who know me well should understand that I tend toward the former course of action.

Maybe I'm changing as I grow older (duh, again), but I did not make that decision this time. I decided that if we were going to do a cat experiment, that I would let myself enjoy having the cat in the house. And if it was a good cat? What if it turned out to be the Best Cat Ever? Then what happened between the cat and I is like a teenaged boy meeting a perfect, special girl at the beach and deciding that even if it's only for two weeks of vacation that it's worth it.

Er, ew. No. It's not like that. Bad analogy.

Lets just say that I enjoyed the cat while she was here. So did Maddie. Lucy, not so much. Joy was split on the matter. But the high card on the table was asthmatic reactive death, and it turned out to be the winner. So the cat headed off to some friends of ours who are home a lot, have two great kids and a nice older dog. Apparently, she's great friends with the dog and gets to sleep in bed with her new owners at night, which is more fun than she was having at our house. I haven't seen Cleo since then, and I don't want to. You don't really want to run into that girl at the mall and see her with her boyfriend, do you? Once again, ick. Let's put a different way: that 80" plasma TV you bought, that you knew you couldn't afford, but bought anyway? You had to give it up to your single, wealthy friend, who watches nothing on it but NFL football and the Spice channel. Do you really want to go over and watch the game on the very TV, that wonderful piece of plasma machinery, that you once had, but were forced to relinquish, knowing that you'll probably never be able to have one as good?

As we all know, though, technology keeps trudging right along. Maybe someday TV screens as big as your living room wall will cost $99.99 installed. And maybe someone will invent a genetically modified cat without the allergens, or a robot cat that doesn't poop or scatch furniture, who plugs its tail into the wall at night for a recharge. And you could make it quote Ralph Wiggum and do cool ninja moves to impress your friends. It wouldn't run around like crazy at night and throw dirt out of the potted plants, unless you really wanted it to. And that would actually be better.

Or maybe not. And did I say there would be a poignant conclusion? Okay. Give me a minute...

    Sometimes, she would sit on his desk in the office, purring. He would pet her, back to front as she liked. When the weather was warmer than usual, he would close his eyes and remember the summer day in Pittsburgh...

    "Get down, Sir! The shooter's still up there!"
    The President pulled free from the Secret Service men trying to shove him into the Humvee. Ducking, he ran to the place where the cat lay. He knew the sniper would be gone already, his men in pursuit. There would not be another shot. The grey and white cat lay on the pavement, contorted. An instant earlier, it had leaped from its surprised owner's arms, sprinted into the street and jumped toward the President himself. That's when the shot came, and the cat took the hit and spun away in a miniature hurricane of fur.
    "It must have known," whispered the President. Looking up, he saw one man and his family trying desperately to break through the barrier the Secret Service had formed around him. He was about to give the order to let them through when he noticed a small movement at his feet. The cat's eyes had flicked open, and he could see the pain behind them. He could also see the crumpled bullet beside the dented collar charm that read "Best Cat Ever."
    The cat was alive. Somehow, the bullet had been stopped by the charm and the incredible reflexes of the animal. But the message in the cat's eyes was clear: "They can never know." The President gave a nod and a wink, so brief that only a cat would notice. He walked to the grief-stricken family.
    "Your cat gave it's life to save mine," he said to them. "I thank you, and in the coming days, the American people will thank you." He knelt to hug the two little girls, and suddenly, he was crying with them. "She died a hero," he managed to say. "We'll take care of her."

    He hadn't known her reasons for doing what she did, but he'd seen stranger things in his time. Maybe they had been a bad family, and she needed a way out. But that didn't fit. His brief encounter with them had told him just the opposite. What then? Often, the question came to him. But, it didn't matter now. BCE, as she was known, was welcomed in every corner of the White House, with a standing order that she never be photographed or taped. Her life was good. She truly was the best cat ever.
    And no one outside of his most trusted advisors would know that the small memorial and tomb in Arlington had lain empty, these many years. The President smiled. Just imagine, he thought, if the Democrats got ahold of this one...

And if you didn't like that, then you must not like Amercia! Go home, you Facist!