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.
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.