- Yard Mowing: One thing is certain. When we mow the yard on Saturday, we’re going to be stiff and sore on Sunday. Much of what we’re mowing is old fields rather than a yard. That means when we sit on our riding mowers for a couple of hours, we’re subjecting ourselves to a bone-jarring ride. The picture shows the fields on one side of the house, stretching eastward past the original smokehouse.
- Call the Midwife: We’ve been watching this 1950s/60s PBS drama since it first aired in 2012. The writing and acting are compelling, and it’s interesting seeing how medicine and midwives existed somewhat differently than they did during the same time period in the States. At the outset, the program was based on former midwife Jennifer Worth’s memoir of working in East London.
- Ukraine. I posted a few words about this brutal genocide on my Depot Cafe blog because it’s difficult watching the daily tragedy without feeling angry, sad, and helpless. If I were a poet, I might turn to literature as one way of trying to understand the pointless death and destruction. There’s precedent for Putin’s madness. Stalin orchestrated the terror-famine in 1932 and 1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians. Most of the world views this famine as intentional genocide–just as we view what’s happening now.
- Thomas-Jacob Publishing Anthology. I hope those of you who would like to read this free book in a PDF, MOBI, or EPUB file have been able to download it from the publisher’s site here. Since the stories, poems, and excerpts are arranged alphabetically by author, my short story “The Smokey Hollow Blues” leads off the collection. Smokey Hollow was a real neighborhood in Tallahassee, Florida, a place I knew about when I was growing up. The city wanted to destroy it via so-called urban renewal, and they did.
- Cats! Our cats sleep in the bedroom at night. When we turn off the TV late in the evening, they hover around the bedroom door waiting to be let in. Katy sleeps on the bed. Robbie curls up in a box with a towel. They’re kicked out in the morning as soon as one or both of them starts committing infractions. As you can see, I’ve used clip art here rather than any real pictures of the crimes. We’re too sleepy to take pictures at 4:30 a.m.
- I’m currently reading Richard Powers’ The Overstory, the 2019 Pulitzer Prize winner about trees and the people who love and defend them. Unique theme and plot. I’m enjoying the book, but have a strong feeling it’s not for everyone. The Pulitzer Prize comment for this book states that it is “An ingeniously structured narrative that branches and canopies like the trees at the core of the story whose wonder and connectivity echo those of the humans living amongst them.”
- While progress on my novel is slow and unsteady, I was happy to hear that my publisher Thomas-Jacob has some other offerings in the works.
- Since the homepage of my website features a picture of Florida’s Apalachicola River, it seemed only fitting to write a short post about it in the website’s blog The Depot Cafe. The river is featured in my Florida Folk Magic Series.
- I’m surprised that Robbie, the stray cat that adopted us has been spending so much time outside during the day in spite of the cooler temperatures. He does come inside during the devening for food (of course) and a warm place to sleep. He’s getting along better than I expected with our two 18-year-old female cats, Katy and Marlo. Even though Marlo is a shrimp compared to the other two cats, she’s the one who stands up to Robbie if there’s a differerence of opinion about who’s supposed to be eating out of which bowl.
- Here we go again as another station (WXIA in Atlanta) is having a standoff with DISH network about fees. This means that we’re not seeing any of our regular NBC programs such as “Chicago Fire” and “New Amsterdam.” Naturally, we don’t get a refund for having one less channel than usual. This kind of thing happens randomly, and the viewer is always the one who loses out. Fortunately, the World Series wasn’t being carried by NBC this year. And the Braves won for the first time in about 25 years!
We’re planning on doing some air travel later this year. Since the handy airline is American, we’ve been watching the news about all their staff and weather problems. We don’t want to get standed on the other wisde of the country. But perhaps theres hope. I saw in today’s news that the airline is planning to triple pay its flight attendants during peak periods of make sure they keep the planes flying.
- It took me an hour to reset all the clocks in the house, so that hour I “saved” actually ran me at a net loss, time-wise.
Save on the Florida Folk Magic Series with this four-book set:
Before going to bed, my wife and I watch old noir films from Turner Classic Movies hosted by Eddie Muller who brings us the scariest, nastiest movies from the genre. Last night we were watching a movie about a woman who sees a murder but can’t get the cops to believe her.
During the screaming part of the movie, my wife says, something is fiddling with the front door. We put the movie on pause and looked outside, and there’s nothing there.
“Probably the wind or one of the killers who escaped from the slammer earlier tonight,” I say.
“Right,” she says, and we go back to the movie. Then the tapping starts up again. She glances down the hall and sees a kitty head peering in the windows in the top half of the front door. He must be hanging on by his claws.
We go to the porch again and see that it’s the black and white kitty that’s adopted us and he is very aggrieved that his food bowl is empty.
Frankly, we think tapping on our door whenever he’s hungry is an example of a cat getting too pushy. But, we feed him anyway. Otherwise, we won’t be able to hear the movie. We know giving in to his demands will serve as a reward, so he’ll probably do it again on our next dark and stormy night.
If you have cats, you know what I’m talking about.
When I woke up this morning, the house smelled like the apple pie Lesa baked last night.
A little later, after I added the aroma of Jimmy Dean sausage biscuits, Lesa began making herself a small frying pan of scrambled eggs while I was peeling carrots and potatoes for a slow cooker pot roast so that it will be ready at 5 p.m. Meanwhile, the house was darker than usual due to the monsoon outside.
Whenever we watch a House Hunters show on HGTV, people are always looking for kitchens large enough for the couple to both be preparing food at the same time. We seldom do that. But we were this morning–with an odd combination of foods.
Now, at 2:30 p.m., the entire house smells like pot roast or, if I open the front door, of rain. This is the kind of day when, other than the cooking, it’s nice to be inside with nothing specific to do. I realized that I’ve been on the edge of burnout, so other than checking e-mail and Ffacebook, I’ve been propped up in my easy chair reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night. Now there’s a grim book, but easier to read than Victor Hugo.
Both Lesa and I see this as a high, cat-gravity kind of day, the kind of day when ramped up gravity brought into a household by a cat makes it hard for humans to stay awake and accomplish anything.
If you have multiple cats in your house, you’ve probably noticed that if any of them are in your lap, you don’t feel like leaving the chair; or that if they’re asleep, you’re likely to fall asleep before the end of your favorite TV show; or that when gravity is light, you feel like you’ve had too much coffee or forgot to take your Xanax.
The multiple aromas of food in the house interact with cat gravity to reduce a human’s ability to give a rat’s ass about anything, including loose rats in the house. I suppose dogs have gravity, too, but it seems to be less heavy. That might be a myth, but today, I don’t care because I’m weighed down by the sheer gravity of the things surrounding me.
There must be hundreds of Facebook graphics showing cats enjoying empty boxes. Our cats certainly do. In fact, if we put anything on the floor from a towel to a receipt from the pharmacy, they’ll lie on top of it.
We’ve been in this house for a little over four years. Since my office is the first room inside the front door, I tend to take off my shoes and leave them next to my desk. They’re probably four or five pairs of shoes, including flip-flops and slippers, there most of the time.
Several months ago our calico cat, Katy, inadvertently lay down in a gap between some of the pairs. When our grey and white cat, Marlo, noticed that, she started hanging out amongst the shoes. Now, Marlo is there almost 24/7 and Katy is there at least half the time.
We’ve had these cats for quite a while and by now we should be used to their habits. But this is a new one. While they move the shoes around to make room for themselves and use the softer ones as pillows, they don’t tear them up or carry them around.
Living with cats is always an adventure.
The night is dark ’cause there ain’t no moon,
Mama comes home, says we’ll be steppin’ in it soon,
‘Cause our three black cats are hackin’ up their doom,
Yes, just hackin’ up their doom
With the danged ol’ hairball blues.
Mama’s getting drunk while Daddy’s puttin’ on the dog,
Cause the whole family will the steppin’ in it soon,
Hairballs on the fireplace log, down in our shoes,
‘Cause they’re just hackin’ up their doom
With the danged ol’ hairball blues.
Cats don’t care where they throw them up
When they’re hacking up their doom
‘Cause they’re hidin’ somewhere in the dark of the room
Even though Mama says we’ll be stepping in it soon
And the whole danged family will catch the hairball blues.
Ain’t no vaccine against hairballs or the blues
‘Cause we’re all gonna step in life in the dark of the moon.
Mama remembers even though Daddy forgets
That the cats bring joys and sorrows to life
In spite of the strife of the hairball blues.
I have no ideas for a fresh blog post. That’s why I typed the header about the cats. Right now, none of my three cats are anywhere. They lurk. I think they actually have a Narnia-wardrobe somewhere in the house and disappear for voyages on the Dawn Treader with Lucy, Edmund, Eustace, and Prince Caspian.
Fine, maybe they’ll start writing sage and quasi-luminous posts in exchange for their four squares a day.
[time passes as I wonder how many people reading blogs today know what four squares a day means.]
In ten minutes, it will be time to feed the cats. I’ll probably get to the kitchen on time because I’ve decided that those who don’t know what “four squares a day” means can Google it.
I thought perhaps I’d announce a book sale or an Amazon giveaway. Tomorrow, I think. Watch my twitter account (https://twitter.com/MalcolmCampbell) for notices. That’s where I mention Amaon giveaways because those come and go way too fast for a WordPress post.
The lights just flicked. One thing about being hard of hearing means that I don’t hear rain. The weather radar, which is showing red for this part of the county, indicates it’s raining like hell outside. Who knew?
Maybe that’s why the cats are missing. They’re under a bed or a couch.
[time passes while I go look outside]
I hope the weather radar liars got their pay docked today. It’s not yet raining like hell outside. But now that I wasted time going to look, I’m probably going to be late feeding the cats.
It’s what they’ve come to expect. I don’t know about you, but just looking at the photograph of their dinner makes my mouth water.
Keep watch on that twitter account tomorrow for some great giveaways.
For one thing, one can never be sure when (or if) the karma train has arrived. The hairball express leaves evidence.
If you’re a cat person–and by that, I don’t mean you’re a cat who turned into a person–you know what that evidence is. If you’re not a cat person, it’s better that you don’t know.
Cat people notice that when the hairball express stops, it’s more likely to be on a rug or a couch than on a tile or linoleum floor. It often stops at night: this means you step in what it’s left for you.
Some people “own” thee cats. This means the hairball express stops more often because the cats get together and set up a schedule so that–basically–the house has full coverage. That means more hairballs in more places at more times, than normal. In this case, less is never more. More is more and when there’s an epidemic, more often becomes the new normal.
That is, one expects to find a mess when they first wake up, whenever important company have come by for dinner, or while one is praying that the hairball express will stop at somebody else’s house. The people we have in mind when we create such prayers are those who keep missing the karma train.
You know who those people are. They have all the money and/or play hideous music on their car radios at midnight with the windows open. There’s more than enough trailer trash scum whose lives cry out for a visit from either the karma train or the hairball express to make things easy for the fates when they decide who’s gonna get it tonight.
I’ve sent countless e-mails to my cats explaining that hairballs are better left in the litter box than on: (a) my living room recliner, (b) the magazine that came in today’s mail, (c) my pillow, or (d) the first edition of the Gutenberg’s Bible that I was planning to take to the Antique’s Roadshow. I can here it now: “Malcolm, with this cat puke on it, the book is worth $37.50. Without the cat puke it would sell, at auction, for $1000000000000000000.”
I’m writing this post because the hairball express has been stopping by our house 4-5 times every 24 hours. This tells me somebody’s put a hex on my house or my cats. I will find you. And when I do, you’ll probably find a cow patty covered with gravy on your dinner plate after you’ve eaten half of it (the patty, not the plate).
Frankly, I think it should be obvious to everyone whether they’re named Frank or something else, that the basic design of cats needs to be tweaked so that there are fewer hairballs. Learning to clean themselves with a sponge rather than a tongue might be a start. Or, perhaps, strong stomach acid that works like Drano so that they don’t swallow a handful of fur and then throw it up on my brand new LL Bean shirt. Bean probably voids my lifetime guarantee on the shirt for such perils as cow patties, meadow muffins, and hairballs.
Look, one reason I signed on to be a cat person rather than a dog person is this: dogs have to do their business outside. That means somebody has to come home or wake up to let the dog out. Cats are supposed to do their business in the litter box. But no amount of training seems to get through to them that hairballs belong in the litter box. My wife and I try to set a good example by never throwing up on furniture or pillows or priceless heirlooms.
All that is lost on the cats. In fact, if you’re a cat person, you already know that–except for expediency–everything is lost on cats.
Malcolm R. Campbell promises you that when you read “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” you won’t find any hairballs in the story.
Every morning it’s the same.
After the kitties are fed and the dishwasher is emptied, I find something figuratively described as breakfast and pour a cup of Maxwell House coffee which will be good to the last drop. Katy, a big-boned or a fat calico (depending on who’s describing her) follows me around while I do this.
Then I take the “breakfast” and coffee to my den. Katy follows. If I forget something, like my glasses, she follows me back to the kitchen while I retrieve them and returns with me to the den like a dog who’s just passed an AKC utility obedience trial and merits as CDX designation.
However, were the trial judge to follow us into the den, s/he would discard the CDX one nanosecond after Katy occupies 55% or more of my desk chair. Katy stays there until dinner, ebbing and flowing–one might say–to occupy smaller or larger portions of the chair. Sometimes, I feel like I’m about to be evicted and say, “Katy, I gotta ask, whose chair is this?”
She thinks it’s her chair. Well, that figures.
from the archives;
Albino County, October 20, 2009–Drill Instructor Boots Anderson slips quietly into barracks #3724 five minutes before Reveille on a cool Texas morning. The humidity is 68%, the pressure is 30.05 inches, the dew point is 56 degrees, and the 100 felines at the Albino County Rat Army Boot Camp are blissfully sleeping in the calm before the storm.
Anderson scowls at the mess, the random hairballs, the shredded up bunks, the tipped over litter boxes, the complete lack of military grade standards of cleanliness and ambiance, “as though a tornado hit the freaking place during the long hours between taps and dawn,” he muses poetically.
And then it hits. Anderson slings the open, CinchSak (R) 39-gallon lawn and leaf bag of empty cat food cans against the wall. Two hundred eyes pop open, one hundred pairs of ears go back, growls, snarls echo throughout the austere structure. Manx cats comprise company 816, so the denizens can’t turn tail and run, opting for caterwauling instead, the kind that makes Anderson’s skin crawl as though he’s covered in fire ants, the nasty buggers.
“Atten-HUH,” bellows Anderson, though it does little good. He hates himself when he resorts to trickery, but the corps demands it or Manx Company is not going to be wearing cat’s pajamas on graduation day. So, he puts a smile in his voice when he utters the disgusting words, “Food Time! Would my pretty little kitties like an itty bitty ditty bad of treats?”
The cats assemble smartly in the long center aisle between the rows of bunks. Their bearing is is straight and true like those perfectly posed goddess-style cats in art from ancient Egypt.
“So you’re not a lost cause after all, you lousy, good-for-nothing curs, you miserable excuses for ratters, you sloppy-as-dogs critters, you alleyway varmints. You Siamese.” He adds that for good measure, knowing it’s a low thing to say to a Manx.
At this moment (05:25 central), the emergency doors at the far end of the building are kicked open and the Feds, damn their lousy timing, crash into the room with assault rifles, mace, snarling dogs straining on leashes, and enough spotlights to make the cats’ eyes look like his chaotic collection of old marbles before his brother lost them to Dexter Smith in the school yard before the cat got his tongue.
“General Mark Sirius, Homeland Security SWAT Tsar,” shouts the dog-eared fat officer who rolls into the room like like a basset on a acid.
“Are you serious?” yells Anderson.
“If you don’t believe me, read my name tag, you wussie cat lover. We’re shutting down this operation until we sort through the litter and totally understand what kind of shit you people are into in this county.”
“Do you have a warrant?”
“Warrant, why would I need a warrant when I’ve got guns, dogs, mace and the Patriot Act backing me up? Stand down, I say, for Mark Sirius is sitting in the cat bird seat today.”
“It’s a little late for that, General, the cats bugged out when you busted in,” says Anderson.
“What the hell?” Sirius doesn’t look like a cute doggy in the window now. “How did they manage that?”
“Training, General, plus they got those little cat feet; they slipped out like fog.”
“Cats or no cats, we’re shutting you down. For one thing, it just ain’t right, even in Texas. I know what you’re thinking, Anderson. You’re thinking all we do at Homeland Security is make life difficult for honest, everyday people. Not by a long shot. We’ve been studying cats, from cat dancing to catamounts to catacombs.”
“So what,” says Anderson, grinning like a Cheshire cat that’s starting to fade into the woodwork.
“I’ll tell you what, mister smiley face, you organize cats, you gotta a catastrophe. You think you can control them, but you can’t. You whistle and they keep on disobeying your commands, telling secrets, spying, sneaking in under the radar. That’s just anarchy, the kind of cat’s cradle trap our enemies are waiting for us to get our fat paws stuck in while our pants are down.”
Sirius is stoked like a cat on a hot tin roof, but he’s not wagging his tail now because Anderson has faded away into the Texas morning, a morning when the winds are gusting to 23 mph, a morning when the old general should head to the dog house early and hang his head while his masters tell him Sirius is a bad puppy for not putting all those cats in a great big hat and bringing in for questioning.
Anderson laughs from a nearby tree. Once the FEDs leave, it will be back to business as usual. All he has to do is open a can of tuna and the troops will pass in review, soon, if not smartly, the sorry flea-bitten strays.