Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Basic Instinct.

We around Casa Quinn are very much being ourselves these days. This is more attractive on some of us than others. Daughter, for example, is being purely herself and being herself fits her like a wee little couture Chanel suit which is also stain-proof and comes with its own matching soccer ball. I will go out on a limb and say no one in this house is better at being a small girl than she is. Were she not so busy being a small girl she could run weekend seminars in how to be the best small girl you could be; she’s just that good.

Consort is also being himself, with a few exciting developments. Because I am in the last uphill climb writing the first draft of the book, he has nobly offered to take Daughter to school every morning so that I can write during the time of day when I am least stupid. This is a noble offering because as I have mentioned before, like hamsters and the Aye-Aye of Madagascar, Consort is nocturnal. I arrange everything the night before -- including Daughter’s clothing and the coffee maker -- so in the morning he has to do nothing more than a controlled fall through the house and into the car. How he drives while still deep in a REM cycle is a conversation he can someday have with an employee of the California Highway Patrol. In sum, Consort is perfectly himself, only before 9 a.m., which makes him even more attractive than he was before.

Lulabelle the cat is very good at being herself and I have the body bags to prove it. When I read about how certain birds and soft-bodied mammals on the islands of Hawaii were completely exterminated by the introduction of the domestic cat, I think of Lulabelle. If I could keep her inside forever, I would. But that would involve none of the rest of the family ever opening a door, or a window, even for a second. Eventually, we must eat or sign for a package, and Lady Death slips out the door, as relentless as an agent of the Mossad. In truth, were we to never open the door, she would amuse herself by killing and eating us and then growing opposable thumbs so she could open the door and go out and kill other things. At least once a week, she leaves us something dead by the back door. Sometimes, the dead whole thing is inches from a dead half thing and some feathers from a totally different thing. If there are any birders reading this, I am so sorry. We belled her, but it doesn’t seem to slow her down one bit. All it means is that about three times a week, some little bird's last thought is a variation of “Say, what’s that rin..."

[She gets rats and mice, too. Piles of them. But I don't think anyone is too upset about those.]

The yard was one thing, but she’s stepped up her game. She’s bringing her take-out meals inside. The first one was under the bench in the bedroom, which answered that long-simmering question: “What is the thing I least want to see next to my balled-up sock first thing in the morning ?”

The next violation came to my attention because Daughter, doing something perfectly innocent and girlish in her room, suddenly called out for me. She said something unintelligible, but I caught from the tone that it wasn’t “I’m having a wonderful time and just wanted you to know it.”

“What is it?” I hollered from the kitchen, as I cleaned out the spice cabinet.

(I will do anything to avoid writing.)

“I said,” she explained patiently, sticking her head into the dining room, “Lu has a dead bird in my bedroom, behind my hamper.”

I stared down at the pre-lapsarian bottle of Juniper berries I was holding and sighed.

“Is it dead or just hurt?” I asked, stalling. Hard to decide which prospect was less appealing.

“It’s dead, I hope,” she said, carefully mashing a strippers’ shoe onto Barbie’s foot, “because Lu’s eating it”.

My soft-hearted, animal-centric daughter had somehow developed an attitude towards her bloodthirsty cat best described as Realpolitik. Lu ate things, many of which were cute before they were eaten, and Daughter would blithely hum “The Circle of Life”. Leaving feathers and wet bits behind the hamper, though, was abusing the privilege.

I did what any right-thinking person would do; I found Consort and handed him a plastic bag. The way I see it, I was in labor with Daughter for forty hours and therefore never have to scrape up small dead things. I did, however, sweep up feathers after the Coroner left. The cat, which had been moved from the room and the feast, was allowed back in after clean-up. The dog and I followed her in, me to check for any beaks and toes, him because the combination of my proximity and the cat’s proximity was too much to miss. Lulabelle ran to where she had left her bird and, upon finding it missing, turned around and slapped the dog. When anyone in my family is being themselves, they are assigning blame.

The dog has been himself, and we’re all puzzled. Each pet, as with each child, arrives with their own needs, and passions, and peculiarities. Unlike a child, a pet cannot tell you why certain things matter, or must be shunned at all cost. You, as the owner, can only say “That, dog, is a thing you do”. Or, you can find the thing they do so crazy-making that you spend months screaming at them, reading books, watching Cesar Milan’s show, trying every behavior-modification technique you can find. After all that, you finally say to them “That, dog, is a thing you do”.

Relative to my last dog, this dog is very easy. The last dog, Polly, ate a great many things which weren’t exactly food. They weren’t even food if you were stuck on a rescue boat for a very long time and had already eaten your Reeboks and slow-moving seagull. Polly ate FedEx envelopes, plastic bags, two twenty-dollars bills, packs of needlepoint needles and an infant-sock. I know she ate the sock because, while I didn’t see her eat it, I saw her pass it. It wouldn’t leave easily, and the sensation of it hanging halfway out frightened her so much that she ran in from the back yard and dashed in a panic around the house, an unspeakable banner flapping behind her.

The new dogs’ great calling in life is to move Daughter’s stuffed animals. He wakes up in the morning, has a quick bite and dashes off to work. Before my tea has even steeped, he has trotted into her room, gotten on his hind legs and gently removed a stuffed animal from her sleeping arms. Graceful as a pickpocket, he leaves Daughter sleeping and the rest of the animals unmolested. He then drops it on the ground and, unless restrained, goes back in for another one. I’ll grab three and be taking them back in and he’ll pass me in the hallway, bringing one out. Polly would take the occasional fluffy love-object of Daughter’s, but that was only in preparation of eviscerating it and following it up with an amuse-bouche of a plastic spoon. The new dog carries the stuffed animals with the tender attention of a mother, doing them no greater harm than an all-over moisture and what I’ve been told is a fairly stubborn smell of dog-breath. We have gotten the new dog his own stuffed animals, and he likes them very much, but his need to move her stuffed animals cannot be reasoned with or displaced on to other objects. His breed was shaped for generations to retrieve; somewhere, in the depths of his brain, this and this got confused.

And me, was I still being me? The more relevant question is, were I capable of being anyone but me, wouldn’t I just take the leap? But, sadly, psycho-pharmacology is in its infancy, and myself I must remain. Right before Christmas, my car developed a problem both puzzling and fundamentally uninteresting to anyone but Consort and me: it refused to go out of park without a struggle. While Chris, our esteemed mechanic/vehicular gerontologist, was on a well-deserved holiday, he took our urgent phone call and deemed it was a fairly mild problem, capable of being worked around until after the first of the year. As long as I never parked the car without activating the emergency brake first, I could be reasonably confident the car could be used as something more than a very large door-stop. The problem is that I have never, not in my entire vehicular life, viewed the emergency brake as a tool for daily use. I believe the word “Emergency” in the title would indicate that it should be sleeping in all but extreme cases. Now, I had to use it every time I parked. And not only that, I had to remember to activate it before I put the car into park; otherwise, its fairy-dust had no power over me. If I forgot to do this, I had to call Consort or find a willing stranger willing to gently push the back of the car with their bumper until the malevolent "parking pin" came free. Most people would describe such an interaction as a fender-bender. It is a rare breed of Good Samaritan who volunteers for a slow-speed rear-end collision. I had to remember to put on the parking brake.

The part has been fixed but Chris has decreed the emergency brake must be continued to be used in this unnatural manner. This has led to a new adjective for Quinn. As we have learned before, Quinn is intense, sweaty and incoherent. Now she chants to herself. Not in a “Hail Mary, full of grace” kind of way, but in an OCD “If I don’t touch the doorknob seventeen times, I can’t have my potatoes” kind of way. Half the time in the car I am chanting over and over again, “PARKINGBRAKEPARKINGBRAKEPARKING
BRAKEPARKINGBRAKE”, an aural Post-It note three stories high. I am not always alone when I am reciting my mantra. I long to go back to the halcyon days of “Don’t Pull Your Love Out on Me, Baby”.

And then I park. And I remember to pull the parking brake first. And I do the little fist of triumph. I have no pile of feathers or stuffed animals to mark my achievements, but I have a car which goes forward and a parking brake which goes up and a mind which can remember something if I repeat it to myself a thousand times.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy 2008, QC and Family! I know you don't post photos at all, but may I request maybe one photo of the new dog someday? Dog transporting stuffed animal would be ideal!

9:36 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Was Polly a cocker spaniel, by any chance? Years ago, my sister had a cocker spaniel who used to eat everything, and I mean everything-- Q-tips, paper towels, pieces of broken terra cotta flower pots, dirt from the back yard.

He had a dirty diaper episode similar to Polly's infant sock. Memorable in a truly horrifying way.

Growing up, our cat used to bring her "trophies" into the house to present to us. She was always so proud, like "Look what I did! This is for you!!"

I don't miss those days at all.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please know that I mean this in the nicest possible way: I almost wet myself laughing while reading this.

Happy New Year!

12:45 AM  
Blogger EGE said...

I had a cat once who carried socks around. She couldn't of course, open the drawer and get them, so perhaps this speaks more towards my housekeeping habits than I meant it to.

My Dumb Boycat that I have now eats ribbons. I once had to pull one out of the end of him. We're much more careful with our ribbons now.

6:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh lordy...i nearly snorted diet coke when I read about the dog and the unspeakable banner flapping behind...

I think I'll be laughing about that one all day long!


7:49 AM  
Blogger Paige said...

Oh, Quinn, bless you for this laugh. Here in the now-completely-frozen Northeast, I need to laugh to stay warm. Not to mention sane. xx P

9:52 AM  
Blogger Dodi said...

I cannot wait for your book! I'm so confident I will like it I would even pre-order a hardback copy at full price! (And if you knew me, being the real me, this is really something special!)

12:09 PM  
Blogger leslie said...

Quinn... I have three cats and these cat bibs work... heres the url for the site that sells them:

2:34 PM  
Blogger Kelly @ Love Well said...

I'm new to your blog, Quinn, but this absolutely rocked my world. There were so many visual images that grabbed me. Thanks for making me laugh.

Now, if you'll excuse this very pregnant woman, I'm going to go use the facilities. Too much laughter this late in the third trimester is a dangerous thing indeed.

3:16 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Thank you! It's nice to know that other households also have unmitigated chaos each day! The picture of the morning insanity was crystal clear and had me in need of the bathroom, lol.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Lene Andersen said...

That was very, very funny. I can't decide which I liked best: the unspeakable banner (I remember a few of those in my 4-dog history) or the line that ends "turned around and slapped the dog" (now that I have a cat, I can so see that happening).

Thanks for the laugh!

6:32 PM  
Blogger landismom said...

OMG, that. is. hilarious.

We had a cat that was a ravenous hunter like that--it was hell to come downstairs and find mole paws on the coffee table, or half a pigeon back (wings yes, head no) on the back steps.

Now, we just have a kitten who carries my son's socks around like prey. Much nicer.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Jan Ross said...

I'm taking a break from shelving books to read a couple of blogs and trying very hard not to disturb the class that is using the library by snorting loudly with laughter as I read your post. And you are not helping me.

7:08 AM  
Blogger MamaTeeThree said...

You are the queen of creating vivid mental images! I don't think I'll be able to look at any dog in the near future without resorting to the snorty-laugh. Reading about the "unspeakable banner" made me nearly fall out of my chair.

7:20 AM  
Blogger Jan said...

Oh, Quinn.
Oh, Oh, Oh.

You make my day, girl.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Our 8-yr-old lab/golden/??? mutt has an unnatural love of crayons. We don't always realize he's stolen them, but the evidence is pretty conclusive.

Thanks yet again for another brilliant entry. I can't wait for the book!

Greg (token male reader?)

2:11 PM  
Blogger Amie said...

My dog thankfully is rather picky about what he eats. What he destroys is something else, though, and sometimes to get something really demolished, a guy's gotta take one for the team, and things get swallowed.

I discovered the whole "take one for the team" occurrence one day on a walk, when my dog squatted to powder his nose and suddenly looked like a Build-a-Bear Workshop in reverse. He pooped ever-expanding stuffing. It was horrifying and fascinating and hysterical all at once.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Just a crazy o'le thought here...

You do FEED your pets don't you? ;)

(Fun blog :) Found you by accident a week ago.)

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have lots of male readers, my
husband and his 3 buddies from work
seem to find enough time to read
you each week at the office, and then come home and tell us how funny you are. These men are brokers,so you would think they
would have enough to do in the
office, wouldn't you? I don't have
the time to read, but I get instant
replays...thanks from both of us, and our 3 four footed friends..

5:43 PM  
Blogger OHN said...

My office is in my home and I spend a crazy amount of time at my computer. One morning, still in sweats, teeth unbrushed, hair matted, I had to check my computer for an important work email. Through blurry eyes I thought I saw a dead bird on my keyboard..yep it was. Completely gross way to wake up!

7:38 AM  
Blogger Miss Cavendish said...

We received a Thule rack for Christmas and my husband has not yet dismantled it (yes--it's his job). But on Monday when I drive the girls to school I have to remember NOT to go home via my usual route, which takes me under a covered bridge. I will follow your example, though I'll probably be chanting "ThulerackThulerackThulerack" just as I crash into the bridge.

12:19 PM  
Blogger berit_k said...

a reader by chance and now a subscriber by choice! your wit and prose have me in stitches!

12:15 PM  

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