Frankly, I think the hairball express is worse than the karma train

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 Kid Needs a Dog

Every kid needs a dog even if that dog belongs to somebody twenty blocks away.

I had a paper route for years, the kind where you go out on your bike at the crack of dawn (in rain, sleet, snow, etc.) and throw papers into yards throughout the neighborhood.

There were numerous rodent-sized dogs along the way that came snapping across yards all full of themselves but would shut up when the newspapers knocked them in the side of the head.

There was an ugly collie named Danger that bit me, getting me out of jury duty some years later in a dog bite case when the attorney asked for a show of hands from those of us in the jury pool of anyone who had ever been bitten by a dog. Goodbye, he said. Aw, shucks.

And then there was a boxer dog named lazy that started following me every morning as I did the route. Then he started showing up at hour house before I got up and would wait out there for the daily run to begin. Finally, he started staying at our house all the time.

His owners were okay with it, since the dog had adopted other kids before. They knew to drive by our house whenever they they wanted to take Lazy home.

Lazy couldn’t resist following a kid on a bike. Unfortunately, when I did the biking merit badge in Boy Scouts, he followed me out of town on one of my 25-mile treks. Needless to say, I couldn’t ride fast enough to get away from him. He gave out before I did at the twenty mile mark.

He ran under some people’s house–one of those on blocks–and wouldn’t come out. They wouldn’t come out either because they thought the shaving-cream-style foam around his mouth meant RABIES. I said boxes always look like that though, truth be told, he was foamier than usual. I couldn’t coax him out from under that house for love or money.

Finally, thinking I had probably been attacked by wolves or fallen into a ditch, my parents found me. They persuaded the people in the house that it was safe for them to open the front door four inches and hand out a bowl of water. Lazy drank it like he’d been running in a desert. After another bowl, he allowed himself to be coaxed into the car.

Lazy (his full name was Lazy Bones) loved coming inside the house when the parents weren’t home. He enjoyed being swung around in a wide circle at the end of a rope: people driving by almost ran their cars into the ditch when they saw that. And he loved play-growling around the hands of anyone wearing gloves. (We might have taught him to do that after seeing police shows on TV. Mother wasn’t amused when Lazy lurched out of some bushes when she innocently game outside wearing gardening gloves). Lazy was in no way lazy.

Lazy was “our dog” for some ten years, maybe longer. When I gave up my paper route, he followed my brothers. He knew that my brothers and I were three kids in need of a dog.


Update: I posted a photo of Lazy, my two brothers and I in a “formal portrait” over on my Writer’s Notebook blog’s “Wordless Wednesday” post on 2/14/2010.