I want to extend thanks to the folks at Mercer County Mosquito Control, for their commitment to reducing the numbers of the region's pestiferous Asian Tiger Mosquito. These dedicated government workers have been toiling tirelessly in my neighborhood for the last month or so, even entering our backyards without permission, and leaving gates open when they go to the next property! I've seen more mosquito control agents around here than any other government official, ever! We've had four visits in the last couple of weeks, right here, including one at 3 a.m. this morning, in a really REALLY loud sprayer truck that woke us all up! But I'm not bitching! It's not like I ever get more than two hours of continuous sleep at a time these days anyway! It's mid-September, and these mosquitoes must DIE before our autumn is ruined!
I bet the folks in Hopewell or Princeton don't get this level of attention! But then again, maybe the suburbs don't have the same level of mosquito populations!
So, thanks again, Mosquito Killers! I only wish other government workers had half the dedication you do.*
I have no reason to protect anyone, especially the stupid, the insane, and the criminal around me. Well, I suppose I'm protecting myself from them by keeping quiet.
But sometimes a story must be told. I can change some details to protect the guilty, and my own safety.
We do our best to tend the stray cats in our neighborhood, and very recently, we've begun to ask ourselves if we're really helping. We provide reasonably safe haven (Steve enjoys chasing the cats, but he hasn't yet discouraged them entirely), food and water. And when we can, we catch them, and get them fixed up. Occasionally, we find them new homes, and sometimes we sterilize and release. But we're not moving fast enough; we'll never be quicker than their ability to reproduce, and, despite our best efforts, we're probably helping them reproduce, with our cat sanctuary. Even if it is Steve-flavored.
Adding to our mounting frustration is the fact that some people around here are obviously acquiring cats from a shop. These cats are easily recognizable because they tend to be attractive and clean, are not afraid of people, wear collars, and, most maddeningly, have their reproductive organs. These idiot neighbors let their cats roam, and they often roam into our yard, and eat the food we put out for the strays, and MATE WITH THEM.
One of our insane neighbors, K, is also annoyed by the owned domestic cats roaming free, mostly because his yard has become a litterbox.
Two months ago, K asked to borrow our humane trap so he can do his part to clean up our neighborhood's cat problem. We dragged our feet, because we didn't want to loan the trap to an insane person. A few weeks went by, and we hoped he forgot about his request, and that something else came along to occupy K's attention. He spends a lot of time on the sidewalk, yelling at his girlfriend to wash her genitalia. She yells back at him in the same manner, so we figured the cats would slip his mind.
Then D called me. Every time I see her name on my caller ID, I regret giving her my number. She is one of the insane neighbors too, though she doesn't scream at anyone to wash his or her genitals. While I'd be hard-pressed to call her stupid, I cannot help but question nearly every one of her decisions. She is nice, friendly, and will eat up your entire day if you run into her. You will never get that time back, and you will resent it. And her attitude on animals alarms me. She breeds —without licensure — small dogs, and ones with a known defect, at that. But it's okay, I guess, because she sells them cheap. She's also had her share of cats, and it's only been in the last few years she's had them sterilized. She can point to nearly every stray, and at least one of our indoor cats, and recount the animal's heritage, going back to her first, fertile and prolific cats, some years ago. Damn her.
But she loves her animals, even if that love is wrong. I can't hate D; I feel bad she's so damaged, and I feel worse for the small creatures in her care.
There was a panicked tone in her voice the day she called. "Have you seen M?" she blurted. "I haven't seen her since Thursday, and she's always around!"
I told her I saw M, her cat, at my back porch, eating the strays' food, on Friday, and I saw her again on Saturday, resting under D's car.
M is D's last living cat, and is spayed. She's a nice kitty, too, but it bugs me that she eats our food.
D was relieved that I saw the cat on Saturday, though it was Wednesday, and unlike M to be gone that long. D then launched into a 20 minute story filled with names of people I don't know, and their life stories, which, no offense to them, I just can't care about.
I got off the phone as quickly as possible, and called Glen to ask him to keep an eye out for M. We had noticed several cats go missing lately, including Jagbag, and her mother, Liz the Hussy, and we hadn't seen any of the collared, big-balled males, either.
A few days later, Glen was out front doing some yardwork, and ran into K. Glen mentioned M's disappearance, and asked K if he had seen her.
Now, you would think someone prone to screaming about dirty genitals for the world to hear might not have so many varied activites, and so much time on his hands, but you'd be wrong.
"That fuckin cat's been shittin up my yard for too long," K began. "I told D to keep her cat out of my yard. I told her! But she told me she couldn't help where her cat went."
"So I grabbed the cat, and took her for a ride, and let her go over there." He gestured to another part of town.
In the weeks since K asked to borrow our trap, he had not lost interest in catching cats, as we had hoped. He caught them with his bare hands, is all. Cat noodling, we call it. He bragged to Glen that it was the second time in a few years he had captured M and "relocated" her, but she found her way home the first time.
I felt sick as Glen recounted the exchange for me. D is a HUGE part of the animal problem, and even though she is good-natured, her choices in life are maddening and have consequences for so many. And, on the flip side, K's frustration with D is understandable. But the cat! It's not her fault her owner is a mongo!
I was mad at myself for feeling sick. People bag kittens and drown them; shoot them when they've had enough; poison them with antifreeze. If not those things, they claim cat allergies, so they don't have to get involved. What the hell is wrong with me?
K also explained that he was able to capture and relocate several other cats, but it was challenging work. He had good luck with the obvious pets, and the juvenile strays, he told Glen.
Yesterday, to my surprise, I discovered Steve was playing "Swat n Duck" with Jagbag; who had miraculously reappeared yesterday morning. They both played tirelessly, Steve with delight, Jagbag with increasing irritation. I was glad to see her back, even if she is a bird killer.
I haven't told D that we know why her cat disappeared. I hate knowing, and wish we didn't. It weighs heavy on me. I heard D & K talking outside my window earlier this week; K pretended to help look for the cat in our hedges, and offered suggestions. A guilty conscience, perhaps? Short of hanging "missing cat" signs, D has done just about everything to find M. We're hoping K noticed the heartbreak in D's voice, and finds that damn cat and brings her home. And Jagbag's return gives me hope that maybe M will make it home on her own, too. Maybe.
When I was a child, I snuck into my mother's china cabinet, and took out the Lenox statuette of the Virgin Mary holding the Baby Jesus. My mother was napping on the couch. And, through some bizarre twist of fate, I lost hold of the porcelain form. I'm terribly uncoordinated, but have pretty good reflexes, so I was able to catch it quickly (like those catatonic people in the 1990 Robin Williams/Robert DeNiro flick, Awakenings). But Jesus's porcelain head tapped the table, and popped off, and rolled across the dining room floor. I was young, probably around 8, and gearing up for my first communion. Religion was terrifying to me at that time, and I knew God would smite me, and bad, for breaking off the head of his only begotten son. There was no need to incur the wrath of my mother as well. She was sleeping, so I used that opportunity to glue the head of Baby Jesus back onto his body, which was not so safe in his mother's arms. My mother never found out, though when I looked at the figurine last year after my mom's death, I could clearly see where the glue had yellowed around the neck of the savior.
You'll say I'm ridiculous, but I don't care. The visual of the head of the Baby Jesus traveling across the dark green carpeting of our dining room, has never left me. I see it now as foreshadowing of my broken faith and my heartbreaking road to parenthood.
Matthew turned one a few weeks ago, and buying the chunky 1 candle at the supermarket for his cake was a profound moment for me. It was just a run-of-the-mill wax 1, but I had spent so much time in the previous year marking the anniversaries of sad, miserable days: my mother's death, my dog's death, and, most notably, my daughter, Catherine's, death. So I pulled that candle down from its hook in the baking aisle, and held it in my hand until I checked out, barely believing I had arrived at the one year mark in my little boy's life. The chunky candle was proof, and proof in hand feels so damn good.
I spent the better part of 2007 trying to find my footing again, after Catherine's unexplained passing, and I wrote, and created art, and read everything I could on grief and infant loss, in the hopes of processing everything properly.
In January of 2008, we marked the year that had gone by since we lost Catherine. It was a sad day, but not full of the despair that I had experienced throughout the previous year. There was a sense of confusion over how time could simultaneously stand still and rush forward; confusion over how our lives could be SO different from the year previously. I had been quietly marking each day without Catherine, up to her anniversary, by saying to myself, "One year ago today, she was alive, inside of me." I couldn't say that anymore on January 31, and I had mixed feelings about uttering to myself, "One year ago, she died." It's a significant unit of measure, the year, and in a very basic sense, I felt a sense of accomplishment that I had made it that far. It forced me to try harder to find meaning in Catherine's brief time with us. Finding meaning, I suppose, is what we humans do.
Some people, I suppose, turn to religion. Sometimes their faith is strengthened by tragedy. Not so much by choice, I have never been one of the faithful, and maybe that's the reason I bristle when I hear people say, "It was God's will," or "God had a plan for her," or "God only gives you what you can handle."
On the flip side, I've also recently witnessed friends and family talking about "God's will," and "God's plan" when it comes to a little baby girl, born too early. I am relieved that it looks like she will pull through. People mean well; I know they meant well when they used the God terminology with me, too. And I don't want anyone to experience the loss of a baby; the pain is illogical, and I'm fairly certain, no matter how much time goes by, I will always feel a bit broken, failed. I will always wonder if I could have done something differently, maybe she'd be here, now. That doesn't nag at me the way it used to, but it's always there, under the surface, so when I hear about "God's goodness" in respect to the premature baby, I can't help but feel smote, for a spell, all over again, singled out, as if my lack of faith may be the reason my baby died, at least in the minds of religious people.
Really, I don't believe that's true, and I really don't believe the faithful think that my faithlessness is the reason Catherine died, but I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I think about the headless Lenox Jesus in Mary's arms, and my glue job so many years ago, and how the imagery affects me. Except, perhaps, I'm not holy, and I'm the one who's been glued back together.
But, I think those cracks that make me so vulnerable, also make me stronger, better able to prioritize, and more capable of appreciating life. A few weeks ago, we celebrated Matthew's first birthday. Instead of marking an anniversary of tragedy, in which we have no choice but to find meaning, I was able to simply bake a cake. And, just like so many other people in this world, I planted a fat wax 1 right in the middle of it. It felt so good, so right, to experience something normal. I am grateful.