Sunday, January 22, 2006

Calling the Shots

I slapped the brochure for a series of two-day chlorine disinfection seminars down on the cluttered break room table in front of Bud.

"What are the chances of me going to one of these? Jackson, Thermopolis, whatever."

He put on his reading glasses and shook out a menthol Marlboro he knows better than to light in my presence, made a sweeping gesture with it. "Would you rather go to Jackson for two days, or Casper for four in April? I thought you might want to go the Rural Water spring training conference."

I refrained from jumping up and down and hugging him and tried to act nonchalant. "No yeah, that's a better idea. That's fine." He smirked, so I threw the brochure at him.

The odd thing about Bud has nothing to do with how fanatically observant he is or how little he fits in here in the town where he grew up. It isn't that he's a fifty-something who plays X-Box, reads science fiction, avoids his siblings and argues with his ex-wife at work everyday, since she's the Public Works secretary. No, the creepy thing about Bud is that he has vampire eyes. His indistinct pupils smudge outward into a white ring that fades to a pale blue iris ringed in some nondescript darkness, and if I'd never seen him anywhere but at Kate's after sunset, I'd totally think he was one of the undead. It's an even better effect when he's hungover, when they're glossy and bloodshot.

I went up the river to the State Park to ski Friday and take some pictures for painting reference, and maybe see if some sunshine would improve my mood. The SPF-40 smelled like the lake and made me feel worse. It was twenty-nine degrees and snowing halfheartedly from a clear sky, so I wrapped a scarf around my face to save my lungs and moved smoothly and swiftly along the groomed trails. The thing that I love about Nordic skiing is the rhythm, the perpetual shove and glide, poles punching icy crust with every swing.

After about an hour I put both poles in my left hand and started snapping pictures with the Olympus while I went. I stopped to use the digital zoom to get the two fat, lazy captive bull elk in their pen, and when I was putting the camera back in the breast pocket of my Columbia, the snow shifted under my right ski and I went down hard on my right arm (It happens so fast there's nothing you can do, not even swear.) I was right by the road and the four inches of snow wasn't much cushion. My elbow's still stiff today, and it makes me feel old.

Mom and I watched The Quiet Man two weeks ago; she said it was one of Dad's favorite movies. I'm not a big John Wayne fan (I find his gargoyle face unbearable), despite the fact that he may be a distant relative of Cordale's, but I loved Quiet because of Father Paul and Reverend Cyril. John Wayne belongs to that brotherhood of stoic leading men
- like Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood- who can't actually act, but who seem to get lucky enough to be cast as the same person every time, and we love them for it. I have no problem with this at all.

The larger of my two cats, a male Maine Coon, is by far the more affectionate; whenever he wants attention he rubs the shelf of bone beneath his gigantic yellow marble eye on my hand or slams his head into my calf. But I never thought he was the smart one- until now.

When he hacks like he's going to whork up a hairball (a rare occurrence, since I brush him frequently), I give him a blob of Vaseline, which he enthusiastically licks off my finger. So recently when I was pressed for time on my lunch break and I resisted his friendly overtures (it's hard to ignore a 16 lb. cat), I heard him start hacking under the table and obliged with the petroleum blob, and he left me alone. Usually the symptoms persist in the evening and then disappear for several days, but the next day I shoved his paws off my thigh (he's 24 inches long without the 12 inches of fluffy tail, larger than most small dogs, and stands about 14 inches tall at the shoulder when he's not slinking) and pretty soon under the table I heard, "Hack, hock. Wheeze." More jelly. Same thing next day.

Of course, this has become a pattern. I never hear him cough at night now, only at lunch, and it's worse when I slide him across the kitchen linoleum on his side like a huge, furry Shuffleboard puck in an attempt to gain a moment's peace while he collects his dignity. Therefore, I must surmise that he is faking, the clever snot. So how do I know when he really needs the gunk? After this, no more cats. I'll stick to rainbow Betas in a cup or maybe no pet at all. I don't like things that think they're smarter than me.


Blogger Shepcat said...

"Whork" made me laugh out loud. I use it all the time myself, though a) it's not really a word (at least not according to and b) I've never actually written it but have only spoken it. In my mind, it has always been "hork," but it looks way funnier and somehow more onomatopoetic with the 'w', so that shall henceforth be the official spelling, if we so concur on this day in this place, because we are clearly superior arbiters of language.


January 22, 2006 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger A said...

I hereby concur (as a coadjutor posting ex-cathedra) that "whork" be the official spelling.

I decided it's like whorl or wharf: the W just gives the word momentum.

January 22, 2006 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger A said...

Or makes it whole, whatever.

January 22, 2006 at 10:27 PM  
Blogger Shepcat said...

Out of context, there's also something oddly compelling about the brief passage "'Hack, hock. Wheeze.' More jelly."

That said, it sounds like your cat has a Vaseline monkey on its back. Could an intervention be far behind?

(Word verification: "bluxxy." Adjective potential abounds.)

January 23, 2006 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger A said...

You like making me sound like an absolute deviant.

Can't you just imagine me checking my cat in for petroleum-product detox? Sobbing: "I just missed all the signs, Doc."

"Bluxxy" sounds like British slang describing a lady with oversized fakes.

January 23, 2006 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger a572mike said...

The Quiet Man is a great movie! I think it's my favorite John Wayne flick since the story is so different from what he normally did...

January 23, 2006 at 10:32 PM  
Blogger A said...

I think that's the appeal for me, too. But I kept wanting to slap Maureen O'Hara around for being such a pain in the ass.

January 24, 2006 at 9:05 PM  

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