Thursday, December 10, 2020

After I’ve emptied the little Tupperware dish of fresh litter into the box, I bring it outside and let it sail over the seven or eight steps into the open bin on the half landing. It’s so light it almost flutters, and it seems like it might veer off-course, but it always lands right there on the gravelly gray pile. Pufff. This is a moment of pure bliss, just a second and a half or so, every two days maybe.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

The Cat From Iran

When I was a kid we drove across France in the summer of 1979 in that Renault 4, the heat merciless on the rainbow-striped synthetic seats. An odor of glorious vomitude. Hollow metal poles formed the frames upon which the fabric stretched, ready to tear, ready to pop in a fender-bender, a serrated end ready to plunge into the firm neckflesh of a ten-year-old: me.

Dad had the radio on and the French people do love their news. Music, news, news, news. Weather. News. Traffic—vacation traffic. Live reports on the jam you’re in right now. Music. News, news, news, news, news. They kept talking about this cat. A cat was fleeing to France. To live out the rest of his days. This cat was on the run. From some kind of danger. Who was this cat? This cat from Iran?

Thursday, December 03, 2020

The Autobiography of Someone Else - 18

Harry and I began to hang out with Jim. Just another loser with a mother who knew our mothers. Is that not how lifelong bonds are formed? I sensed that Jim was interested in more than television and Atari and Star Wars and sports. He did like guns and swords and tanks. That was normal but he liked them more than me, more than most. In the library I’d look for race car books. There was one with black and white pictures of North American sports car races in the ‘60s, a book that was already old and nobody cared. Races that had faded deep into history, their results recorded but never re-examined, the names of the drivers forgotten by all but their descendants. Triumphs and Corvettes with roll bars winding up and down and through the fields. Men in white, short-sleeved, button-down shirts and their wives or girlfriends in long floral-print skirts sitting on the hilly lawns to watch. This is all I wanted. Jim came over to my house one day to build model airplanes. We began with a strangely ceremonial lunch, as though my parents had to check him out to be my girlfriend. For some reason Mom had severely undercooked the burgers. I gamely swallowed clumps of cool, mealy meat, its blood soaking the bun, dressed in pickle relish and Heinz Tomato Ketchup, as Jim excitedly explained why he’d prefer a knife to a machine gun in hand-to-hand combat. “A machine gun might jam,” he said. “With a knife, you can stick it in the other guy’s body.” I gulped my iced tea and the lemon wedge knocked my nose. My parents examined Jim with some concern. “Unless you have a bayonet on the gun. A bayonet is the best,” Jim exclaimed. “It’s like a knife!”

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

It occurred to me that I didn’t know how to operate the fire extinguisher in the corner cabinet under the sink. It had stood there behind the U pipe, next to the leftover tiles, ever since we bought the place ten years ago. In the back of my mind it was always, there’s a fire extinguisher there if there’s a fire.

But today I imagined a short circuit over by the TV, maybe something the cats did, sparks shooting, smoke, flames, the cabinet alight, the album collection smoldering, vinyl dripping like molasses on the floor. I’d go get it of course. But then I’d hold it up idiotically, fumbling with it, not knowing what to pull or push or squeeze.

I knelt down and opened the door. The thing was farther away than I remembered; I had to press my face against the stove to reach it. In the bright kitchen light I examined the cartoon instructions on the side. Pull the pin. (Like a grenade.) Squeeze the thing and aim for the base of the fire. Sweep back and forth.

I brushed off the dust that had accumulated on the canister’s shoulder. I gave the pin a little tug, just to have the ghost of the muscle memory I’d need. It seemed flimsy, ready to be ripped away. I fingered the lever gingerly. And then I knelt back down and put the thing back for another decade. But closer to my reach this time.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Something like a gun or firecrackers went off outside but when I looked out the window everybody was doing normal shit, jogging, crossing the street. Still I heard it: pop-pop-pop.