Sunday, October 30, 2005

Caged Heat.

I really dislike Halloween.

I dislike feeding complete strangers who drive to our neighborhood from miles away because they heard the getting was good.

I dislike handing out candy to an invading army of sugar-addled delinquents who view their part of the interaction as grabbing candy from my hand and walking away in silence. In fairness, some of the children say “thank you” without prompting and some say “thank you” after gentle coaxing from their parent. But all too often, we have the following interaction:

Child grabs fistfuls of candy from my bowl. I gently remove all but the first eight. He starts to walk away.

QUINN: What do you say?

He and his mother stare at one another in confusion.

BOY: Um…Abracadabra?

I guess they got a magic word and the magic word confused.

This all makes me just a bit more worried about the future of society. Usually by the third hour of Trick-or-Treating, I am sitting on the couch, tensely waiting for the doorbell to ring and eating chocolate by the handful.

I dislike groups of fourteen year-olds walking around in dark hoodies and jeans, holding out a plastic grocery bag while mumbling “Tri’ or tree...” Kid, I know you’re too old for this. You know you’re too old for this. We both know I am merely bargaining to not have my house egged, but at least pretend this is something besides a holiday-themed shakedown.

But my dislike of Halloween is a mere pot-hole compared with the Grand Canyon of Loathing my cat feels for this dumb ritual. Of course she doesn’t know it, but Halloween is responsible for her having one completely miserable week each and every year.

Lulabelle is a black cat.

Wherever there are cruel people with time on their hands, animals can get hurt. As Halloween approaches, being a black cat increases the likelihood of mistreatment tenfold. This is so generally understood, most cat-rescue groups will allow someone to adopt a black cat in October, but they cannot take it home until after November 1st. Sad but true.

Last Friday, when Lulabelle came strolling home from whatever feline mayhem she had subject the neighborhood to, I explained in a firm yet sympathetic tone, “Did you enjoy yourself out there today, sweetie? I hope so, because it’s going to have to hold you until next Tuesday.”

She stared indifferently at me for a second then commenced to remove something from between her toes. The next morning, she demanded her breakfast as usual. Then, as usual, she did the feline equivalent of grabbing a travel-cup of coffee and attaché case, stood impatiently by the back door, caught my eye and meowed loudly.

Meanwhile, the dog had also walked to the back door and looked up at me anxiously. Our dog has, at most, seven brain cells, most of which are dedicated to waking up, eating, and relieving herself. Many would envy her regularity. But on this spectacular autumn morning the door remained closed. She whined softly.

I arrived at the back door and, in a single motion, grabbed the cat and tossed her towards the kitchen, opened the door and pushed the dog outside before the cat could scramble out. Lulabelle’s body, sprinting for freedom, made a solid “thunk” when it connected with the suddenly re-closed door.

Eighty-five seconds later (our dog is a Swiss watch of excretory predictability) there was a single familiar bark. This time, I grabbed, tossed, opened and pulled the dog back inside while Lulabelle made another sidelong break for freedom. Her irritation at missing her shot was assuaged -- but only slightly -- by sinking her claws into the dog’s passing buttock.

The week passed. Mostly, Lulabelle hovered at the back door as if it were the last helicopter out of Saigon. I discovered the dog goes out much more than I ever noticed -- I got to practice the grab–toss–open–push/pull–thunk maneuver at least fifteen times a day. The dog gets whomped-on regularly and no ankles are safe from ambush. Without the outside world to supervise, Lulabelle has turned into a soccer hooligan.

She doesn’t limit herself to physical violence. This warrior has many arrows in her quiver. When she determines none of us are likely to be going out the back door any time soon, she goes to the Bench of Many Clothing, locates the lightest-colored sweater, curls up and proceeds to weave her anthracite hair permanently into its yarn. Since I am reasonably vigilant about putting my clothes away, Consort is now the proud owner of several crew-neck domestic cats. The really neat trick is how this jet-black cat, when confronted with a navy-blue cashmere sport jacket, manages to shed white fur.

“You want me around 24/7?” she thinks as she randomly needlepoints one-third of her coat into a pair of khaki pants. “Fine. You can wear me into the next decade.”

Harboring the World’s Smallest Political Prisoner also means we now enter the house in an entirely new way. Whenever Lulabelle hears someone approaching any exterior door, she gets into position, an arrow poised to spring out the merest crack of light. Knowing this means we have to be prepared. Imagine someone walking with a mine-sweeper in front of them, scanning it back and forth with a floppy handle. Now, replace “mine-sweeper” with “foot”, and attempt to carry several grocery bags and steer Daughter through door while doing so. What you end up with is a strange hopping dance which resembles a traditional jig from a country of people who drink a lot and wear uncomfortable shoes.

Throughout this performance, I’m usually shouting for Daughter to “Get in, GET IN!” while simultaneously shouting at the cat, “Stop it, STOP IT!” Usually, the dog comes to see what’s going on, so I’m also shouting “Sit, SIT!”

Of course, what comes out is, “GET SIT! STOP…IN! SIT SET! GOP. STEP! GIT!...”

All three freeze in place for a second, if for no other reason than to observe what happens when an adult human has an aneurysm. My pet- and child-rearing DVD will be out at the end of January.

So far this week, Lulabelle has breached the perimeter twice, once with Consort and once with me. She dashed outside and, possibly dazzled by daylight, flopped down for a nap mere yards from the threshold. We each walked slowly towards her, crooning something like, “What a pretty cat. Come here, pretty girl, and let me pet you.” Both times, she allowed herself to be petted, only to wail in distress when we neatly scooped her up and brought her indoors:

LULABELLE: I can’t believe I fell for that!

QUINN: Just three more days, sweetie. You’re on parole in three more days.

LULABELLE: I feel so stupid.

QUINN: Look, wet food for the prisoner!

LULABELLE: So I see.

QUINN: I’m doing this for your safety, you know.

LULABELLE: Later tonight, I’m going to throw up in your shoe.

QUINN: It would feel wrong if you didn’t.

That night, I realized something mildly disheartening. During the past week I have had a variation of the same conversation with one daughter and two pets, all with varying degrees of success:

“I know you want to (do cartwheels on the couch)(eat a large rubber band)(live off the land and only come home for wet food) but it’s not safe and I can’t let you do it. That’s my job. I don’t enjoy the sound of a small mammal crying in pain nor do I enjoy the sound of myself crying in pain when I see the Emergency Room bill. You need to find something else to do. End of discussion.”

Mean mothers, unite.

7 Comments:

Anonymous rebecca said...

YES! YES! I, too, live on a street where children come 'cause the geting is good. I happento live at the start of the street, so I can watch the SUVs PARKING IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE AND BLOCKING MY DRIVEWAY, only to then have the pint-sized ghosts approach for the goods. Besides the teen-aged shakedown, I hate to open the door and find the parent with the less than one-year old. These babies don't even have teeth, and yet I must put candy into a plastic pumpkin thrust in front of me by their handler.

So many people asked me what I was going to dress my 6 week old baby as. I just look at them in confusion.


And, I do remember Pasadena Humane not adopting out black cats during the month of October. Good luck, Lulubelle, it is almost over!

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in the "Good Candy" neighborhood in my town too. I bought an insane amount of candy, that will all be gone tonight. I dont' mind that, as I now have a 16 month old daughter. I did, however, become one of THOSE parents last year, and took her out at 4 months old.... I know... but it made Us so happy....

For me, it's the kids in High School who ring the bell at 9:30 at night. I'm in bed horridly early. Go home!!

However, I myself was a freshman in High School, and I did go out trick or treating.... not for the candy mind you... but to corrupt my friend, who as a Jehovah's Witness had never been. My friend and I took it upon ourselves to see to it that his childhood didn't pass without experiencing this delight. Actually, it was really fun to watch... kind of like a small kid's first trip to Disneyland.

Now, as a parent today, I'd be mad all over if someone did something against my beliefs with my kid... but, it's still a fond memory.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Call me naive, but what exactly happens to black cats outside during October? I had one years ago, and I don't remember a problem with our letting him out at any time of year.

12:39 PM  
Anonymous quinncummings said...

For certain bored and damaged people (I'm thinking teenage boys, but cannot say for certain), mutilating a black cat before Halloween has that whole "I'm a Satanist who is really just crying out for attention" thing.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous beckster said...

My Boo kitty is in the same boat, except that he is not going to be an outside kitty ever again. Not so much because he is black, but because our neighborhood has acquired a new predator. Either a coyote or a fisher. What ever it is, it dispatched 2 of my 3 cats within a month. Boo is miserable, but too sweet to take it out on us. He is coming to us for comfort and bringing toys so we can amuse him.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Mana said...

I am glad I was directed to this site Quinn. I enjoy your writing very much. I just wanted to say that you are wise to keep kitty in hand during the holiday. I had a cat come home with three legs one Halloween. There are some sick puppies in this world. No pun intended of course :-)

5:34 PM  
Blogger Kingery Family Blog said...

I have always lived in the country and have very few trick or treaters,,like 6 maybe..and they came in pairs... :(
On the news last night was a report of a 14 yr old boy who was nearly beaten to death (I'm talkin life lined to trauma center) for his bag of candy, by some 16 yr olds. For God sakes! There should be an age limit to trick or treat. I say 12. And parents of teens should buy a shitload of candy for their own...

9:03 AM  

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