A couple of nights ago I shot a cat. Lest you animal fetishists send me nasty email, or the anti-feline masochists among you send me packages of veal, I'll note that I didn't use my 9mm, but rather my Daisy Red Ryder underlever cocking BB gun, from ten yards out. You see, I thought he was picking on my cat. You might recall that we have a cat. The Wife would likely assert, were she reading this over my shoulder (which is, incidentally, not an advisable way to blog), that it is my cat.
It used to be that fat neighborhood cats would slink into our garage, beat up our kitten, and eat his food. He's grown a bit, however, and he still has his claws. Recently I found cat fur all over the garage, and assumed he'd beaten up one of those neighbor cats. The worm has turned, I thought. How now, brown cow? And other such exultant internal monologue. But the other night, I heard this curious keening from the garage.
Some of you are chuckling right now. I need you to understand that I never owned a cat as a child. If you read the earlier post about this animal, you will also notice that I used to think he was a she. I sometimes have this problem with humans as well, especially on college campuses. The point is, I am naive when it comes to the ways of the cat. Or I used to be.
So I grabbed my shooting iron, and went out to the garage. The noise was on the other side of the garage door. I opened it, and there in the driveway stood my cat, who is black, facing down another black cat. The problem was that in the lamplight I couldn't tell which cat was mine. I got a bead on one, and waited. They waited too. Then it occurred to me that if I moved toward them, my cat would stay, while the intruding cat would bolt. I took a step forward, my sights trained on what I thought was the intruding cat. She bolted. I shot her in the rump. She snarled and disappeared into some bushes.
At this point, I expected some gratitude from my cat. Instead, he looked at me as if to say, you idiot, and disappeared into the bushes after the first cat.
This was no food-dish raid. It was a booty call. Incidentally, I've since learned that cats like the rough stuff. This would explain that fur all over my garage, as well as my cat's new swagger. He's turned my garage into his playboy lounge. My cat is a player.
I understand at this point that several of you are already typing officious comments about how I need to get him neutered. But I'm hoping we can take him, naughty parts and all, with us when we move to the country at some future date, where he will sire a long line of mouse- and snake-hunting cats. So until then, the neighborhood ladies had best guard themselves.
This may be a moot point, now that I've gone and shot one of his girlfriends in the rump. I have to confess, it ran through my mind that this might not be a bad strategy toward young human ladies of questionable repute who come sniffing around my boys in the coming years. I understand that it is of dubious legality, but it certainly leaves an impression. I'm sure my sons would give me that same you idiot look, but they'd likely thank me for it later, don't you think?
Afterward, I got interviewed by somebody from Spin magazine. They even put my picture on their website. Notice that I am the oldest person they interviewed. Then someone asked me the last concert I'd been to. The answer was Rush, in 1995, with my good buddy Bill Chandler. I couldn't hear for three days afterward. Explaining all this to my younger companions made me feel very, very old.
So I went back to my hotel room and went to sleep. In the morning, I showered, and scrubbed at the ostentatious black ink mark on my hand, the stamp I'd gotten at the club. It wouldn't come off. This led to some amusement among the fifty or so young people to whom I had to speak later that morning. Is that a tattoo? Surely he didn't go to a club, did he? Do they allow people his age into clubs?
This, too, made me feel very, very old. I suppose it's good to be humbled in this way. So I'm resolved to go see more indie bands in small, dark clubs.
This morning I stood in line at Starbucks, reading my Atlantic and waiting to order my customary grande hot chocolate with no whipped cream. My friend Ben recently explained that brain scientists believe happiness is generated by the successful pursuit of a goal, such that instant gratification through video games, for example, or pornography short-circuits the process, providing an initial boost of happy chemicals but leading quickly to a let-down, which perhaps explains the gloomy faces on all the overindulged teens at the local mall. I don't read science, because I have Ben for a friend. He loves science, and reads it, and then we meet at Starbucks and he tells me about it.
So I stood in line, enjoying both the instant gratification of holding and gingerly turning the pages of my beloved Atlantic, while working toward the happy goal of my hot chocolate. It was the perfect blend of immediate and future happiness that enables me to function. Writing is usually like that; there is the work of crafting lovely sentences, but also the immediate thrill of knowing that I am good at it, and that something holy may come from my unholy hands, and that it was what I was created to do.
The Starbucks guy was asking each customer if we have a busy day ahead of us. I like this Starbucks guy, because he is nice, and because once he gave me a free hot chocolate. I think if more people gave me hot chocolate, I would like more people. I like the Starbucks people in general, because they are refreshingly cheery. Someone at Starbucks is very serious about screening out the grouchy, slack-jawed doofuses one frequently finds staffing other such establishments. This is what hiring comes down to, in the 21st century: don't hire doofuses. It's harder than you think.
The cute, plaid-skirted Catholic schoolgirl at the front of the line apparently has a big day of doing whatever it is that Catholic schoolgirls do; I couldn't make out what she was saying, but she said it with exuberance. The business guy in front of me got to the front, and announced that he just wanted coffee, black, he didn't care what kind, and for them to leave room in the top of the cup. The Starbucks guy asked him if he had a busy day ahead of him. "Always," he said, gruffly, followed by something about being in his own business, or being a captain of industry, or being some kind of implement that one might purchase from Home Depot I couldn't quite make it out, but I'm sure it supported the impression he wanted to create for all of us, which is that he is a Very Important And Busy Man who can't be troubled with coffee choices and Starbucks banter.
He took his cup without saying thank you, and strode out of the store, the long tails of his overcoat trailing behind him. He was the star of a movie playing in his own head, as I suppose we all are from time to time.
The Starbucks guy, somewhat chastened, took my money, but didn't ask me if I had a busy day. So I volunteered it. "In case you're wondering, I don't have a busy day. I'm going to shut my office door, drink my hot chocolate, and read." He smiled. It's not a bad day, I think, if you can restore the air when someone sucks it out of the room. And I think we all know I'm full of hot air.