Tag Archives: cats

new house friends

I am so, so close to finishing In The Red I can taste it.  It’s quite thrilling, and of course the usual amount of angsty.  You know: What if it turns out that it sucks?  What if it gets rejected all over the place?  What am I supposed to do with myself after it’s done?  Actually, for that last one, I already sort of have an idea for my next novel.  It involves supernatural beings and what may or may not be a crass commercial venture.  We’ll see what comes out.  One of the things about writing novels that’s like having kids is that you can plan all you want but you have no idea what it will really turn out like until you go ahead and do it.  Decorating the nursery is different from having a live baby explosively defecate all over it, is what I’m saying.

Now, who wants to see some pretty flowers?

I was at Costco the other day and they had a great big display of orchids.  I thought it would be nice to get one or two for the living room now that the cats are old enough to not automatically murder every plant that comes within chewing radius.  I looked through them but they were all broken or half-dead in some way, as if they had been brought to the store in some ghastly orchid slave ship.  Then I remembered where I had seen some super gorgeous orchids for sale.  Guess.

They were at the local branch of Fry’s.  Yep.  I went to an electronics store to buy flowers.  And it turns out that Fry’s is really good at flowers!  Check it out:

Given that I did not have little dishes to put the plants in, I repurposed a couple of old Frisbees as flower pot plates.  I had three old Frisbees, and two plants.  You know what that means.  It pretty much guaranteed the purchase of a third plant.  For the sake of completeness, you see.  Meet my new little writing desk friend, an African violet from Orchard Supply:

It looks exactly like an African violet that was butchered by a kitten that shall remain nameless in 2003.  Said kitten is older and more sedate now, so hopefully this plant will not meet the unfortunate fate of its former brethren.  Wish it good luck and godspeed.

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Four reasons I love my cats

• Not feeling like getting out of bed?  No problem.  At least one cat is always glad to justify my abject laziness by cuddling with me, purring gently for hours.

• I like to randomly bust in on them while they are sleeping or licking their butts or indulging in other feline activities and say, “You guys are behaving like ANIMALS!”  Then I laugh when they look confused.  Then I pet them.  I’m also partial to using a 1930s Chicago movie cop voice: “Scuttlebutt around the precinct has it you’re a kitty, see?”  With cats in the house, this behavior makes me charmingly eccentric.  Without them, it would make me diagnosable.

• When I am startled by a weird noise upstairs, I can tell myself it’s the cats messing around rather than freak out that a foamy-mouthed madman has just bashed his way into my apartment to axe me into quivering meat cubes.

• They like to sleep like this:

One is cuddling with my jammies, the other is sleeping in the wreckage of a fuzzy blanket.  This makes the fact that I never make my bed a public service.  Seriously, if you’re looking for ways to vindicate your natural tendencies toward inertia, you can’t do better than get a couple of cats.

Passing the Stone: Adventures in Pee

It all started with a rather noticeable, if not earth-shattering, discomfort in my abdomen.  Then the need to pee every twelve seconds even though nothing came out.  Then the realization that hey, I sure have been urinating a whole lot of blood these past couple of weeks.  Then a phone call to my HMO, followed by a course of antibiotics for a urinary tract infection.  Then increasing pain, becoming more localized in the right side of my back.  Then a slow but unmistakable drip.  It was very sad.  Seriously.

Things that are sad:

  1. war
  2. cancer
  3. smelling like pee

One evening, as the pain was turning rather vicious, it occurred to me that maybe I didn’t have a urinary tract infection, maybe I had a kidney stone.  When I spoke the words “kidney stone,” it was as if I had summoned a demon.  My entire urinary tract went into spasms for the whole night that felt like I might give birth out of my pee hole.  It felt very, very wrong.  Not only the intensity of the pain, but also the fact that it was entirely the wrong aperture for this sort of business.  My vagina was like, somebody call the police.

Followed, the next morning, an excursion to my trusty HMO facility.  A doctor gently tapping over my right kidney and asking, “does this hurt?”  Then, once they had peeled me off the ceiling and administered sedatives, a meditative sojourn inside a CAT scan machine, watching it spin up around me like a giant hard drive.  “It is about the size of a pea,” they told me.  “You should be able to pass it.”  Then they sent me home with some really, really good drugs.

Followed a blurry series of days that I spent mostly unconscious, being woken up by peaks in the pain.  The occasional change of pajama bottoms to accommodate the unfortunate drip.  Taking a lot of awkward pees into a strainer.  Somewhere in there, a field trip to a job interview.  (I am teaching humanities at my local community college next semester!)  (Really.)  (Tip for an outstanding job interview: percocet.  It will mellow you right out.)  More pain.  Bizarre opiate dreams.  Then a sad phone call to my urologist to tell her that it has been days of unrelenting ouchiness without progress, that I was fairly convinced it wouldn’t pass, that I might need “The Procedure” she had mentioned earlier.

The urologist described The Procedure.  I would be thankfully anesthetized.  They would put a scope up my pee hole and through my bladder, all the way into my poor galvanized little ureter.  Then they would laser the stone into a bunch of bitty fragments that they would then extract.  This all sounded kind of awesome and Star Trek to me, until she told me about The Shunt.  Because the ureter was likely to swell up at being so invaded, they would have to leave a little shunt in there post procedure to make sure it could drain.  At which point I queried, “so wait, I would wake up with this device still in my body?”  “Yes.”  “And how does said device come out, exactly?”  “Well, we tie it to a little string that we’d leave trailing out of your urethra, and after about three days you would pull it out of there like a tampon.”

Had I not been so extremely sedated when I heard that, I likely would have never stopped throwing up.  Instead I said, “huh, that’s festive,” and proceeded with scheduling The Procedure.  Fortunately, if my upper brain hadn’t quite registered The Shunt and what it would likely feel like, my urinary tract had received the message.  It spasmed with such terror that I had to run to the loo and once again grunt over a strainer pondering the absurdities of the human body.  But lo, when I checked the strainer, I saw that I had indeed been delivered: I had urinated a small mineral accretion that looked like sandy gravel coated with some kind of ichor (kidney juice?).  After all the drama my body underwent extruding this thing, its appearance was somewhat anticlimactic.  Actually, it was even sort of cute.  It looked like a bitty mollusk, gritty from the ocean floor.

Now I get to take my spiky mollusk to a lab and find out what it’s made of.  Meanwhile, I gave my cat the paper bag my pee strainer came in and the glee with which she’s been tearing it to pieces is truly adorable.  I’ve been finding bits of it all over the apartment.  My cat thinks kidney stones are awesome.  She gets me to cuddle her in bed for days on end AND she gets a new toy to shred.  Me, I’m just happy the drip has stopped.

Trust me when I say you would rather not have this object in your life.

Doggies found a home!

Developments!

13 rue Thérèse was published as a paperback in the UK this week, complete with a sexy quote from Simon Schama right on the front cover (“a flirty, dirty tease of a novel” ROWR!).  Plus a nice review came out in various British papers from Pam Norfolk.

• Remember the gothic dog story I was talking about on this blog sometime ago?  It found a home!  It will be published in The Farallon Review in February of 2012.  Pretty sweet, no?

• This afternoon, I blew some bubbles at my cat and it TOTALLY EXPLODED HER LITTLE WALNUT BRAIN.  Her world was thoroughly rocked.  She kept sniffing the ground where they popped to try to figure out where they went.

• I have been doing all sorts of awesome research for my novel that I can’t post about on this blog because it’s pretty raunchy.  But I thought I’d tease and tantalize you by mentioning what I’m not going to talk about.  Yes, my dears, you’re just going to have to wait to read my findings in book form Lord-knows-when…

• I took an awesome vacation in Barcelona with some friends.  If you ever make it there, I recommend five things:

  1. Eat lots of ham.  The Spanish rock at ham.
  2. Check out all the Gaudi architecture.  That guy was the best kind of nut.
  3. Do NOT check out the sex show at the Bagdad Club if you ever want to sleep again.
  4. Bring bug repellent, unless you’re into sporting gigantic mosquito bites that turn into humongous bruises all over your body when they heal.  I mean, you might be into it.  Like, when people ask what happened to you, you can tell them you got into a bar brawl.  Or you could wipe a tear from the side of your eye and say, “I guess I just don’t listen.”  Your choice.
  5. Look up when you hear squawks!  Barcelona has a very sweet and entertaining population of small green wild parrots.

• My stomach is currently growling.  This is indeed a fascinating development.  One that will unfortunately require me to sign off and forage for food…

whistling past the graveyard

Holy mackerel, how did it get to be June already?  I sort of hadn’t noticed because the weather has been unusually cool and rainy for California lately, but today all of a sudden it’s summer.  I realized this peeling off my sweat-drenched corduroys after walking home from downtown this afternoon.  Time for sundresses.  Also time for love for some type of finch.  The air is alive with tiny dancing birds.  One of their spiffiest moves is tucking their wings in and diving straight for the ground, then pulling up in a fast graceful U as low as possible. I am guessing this is the male display. They must get extra sexy points for doing it over concrete.

My cat just expertly skated the line between totally gross and kind of endearing when she stuck her whole head inside my sweaty sneaker after I took it off and huffed passionately. Yum! Fresh mommy juice.

So.  I finally wended my way past 20,000 words for In the Red, which is just about the place where this book collapsed spectacularly last time I was writing it.  So I printed the sucker out and scanned over it to see if it collapsed again.  It seems not, but I don’t quite trust myself.  I feel a bit like I’m whistling past the graveyard.

The 20K mark happened in the middle of a sex scene I was writing with a cat on my lap.  For a while I was even typing one-handed, not for the reason you might expect but because the cat had to hug my left wrist to rest her head on my arm and how could I take my left hand back when she was purring so blissfully?  Seriously, she totally took me hostage.  After I was done writing for the day, I really had to get up and start getting ready for my anniversary dinner (seven years married, a dozen together) but every time I tried to move the beast, she’d made the most piteous complaint imaginable. Then she’d purr when I petted her head, totally draining my heart of the will to get up.  I considered calling the jaws of life; she’d been on my lap so long I couldn’t feel my legs.

Eventually I managed to pick her up very gingerly with the flats of both hands, keeping her in the same curled up position she was in on my lap, then got up and gently placed her on the chair where I had just been sitting, in the warm spot from my butt. She gave me a bleary-eyed look and went back to sleep.  I put on a pretty dress and some nice underthings and went to the city with the husband for foie gras and boeuf bourguignon and chocolate mouse and macarons.  Aw yeah.

But now I am back at my desk once again wondering where the book is supposed to go next and looking at the maw of the abyss while reflecting that the year is half over but this book is nowhere near half over. Help!  Hold me.   Where is the cat?  I need a cuddly distraction.

Who loves a kitty?

Writing is palimpsest.  Oftentimes I will reuse pieces of old pieces for new pieces.  I will write a story.  Years later I will write it again, reusing elements of a different story.  Or, I will pick up some neat thing in someone else’s work and try to play with it, transmute it into my own thing.  It’s all part of a continuous churn.  For instance, last year I was doing translations of Valéry prose poems.  I became inhabited by this dude and his voice, then created the best approximation I could manage of his voice in English.  That approximation was its own entity, and when I was done translating, I wrote a couple of my own prose poems in that voice.  Here is one:

Knowing is unknowing when the page is so covered in scribbles that it is necessary to erase in order to write. At the apex of the day, the sun’s heat whites out my thoughts; if there was a wind I might let it scatter the paper but all is stillness and languor. The weather mirrors my torpor; the words appear and disappear too quickly for me to catch them, only leaving behind a faint disturbance in my body like the radiating wave that is the only evidence of an object having been dropped in a pond. A pebble, an acorn, a thought. A thought light enough might float, like a feather, drifting soundless on the glittering opacity of the surface. But I am weak at such thoughts, I am all weight and slow sinking. I am the remnant bubble that hurries where the water meets air only to vanish—an inaudible pop then nothingness.

On the sprawled papers a cat sleeps, her dark fur warmed by the sun’s caress. Her whiskers twitch; her animal dreams emanate from her like a vapor: blurry images without words, inscrutable to a plodding consciousness that burdens itself with language. I put my hand on her side, on the serene rhythm of her breath, and she rolls, trilling gently, to expose her soft belly for a pet. Loved by both my hand and the noonday kiss of the sun’s beams, she purrs without even opening her eyes to see who reaches for her through her dreams. Her eyes, yellow as a lick of flame, closed in trust and pleasure.

Today I was writing a scene in which the protagonist of my novel finally makes contact with the cat she has adopted, a cat who has been slinking around her apartment like a prisoner for days and whom she has been unable to name.  I remembered the above prose poem from last year and the scene became the following:

I find her asleep in the middle of the living room carpet, soaking in beams from the noon sun.  Her whiskers twitch; I can almost see her animal dreams emanating from her like a vapor—blurry images without words, all movement and feeling.  Up until now I have only seen her sleep as a neat little ball tucked in a corner that can only be approached from one direction—floating just beneath consciousness, her eyes popping open at the slightest noise, the white film beneath her lids pulling back fast.  But here she is sprawled luxuriously, all slack limbs and serene breathing.  Her dark fur looks so soft.  I crouch next to her as quietly as I can, not wanting to break her peace but not wanting to leave it alone either.  I put my hand on her side, lightly, and feel her heave a deep sigh.  Gently I pet her tiny sun-warm body and then—she rolls over, trilling faintly, to expose the white fur on her belly.  The surrender is so sweet and so simple, she purrs without even opening her eyes to see who reaches her through her dreams.  For a long time we are this way; it is my first love touch since the last time Andrei had me in his arms.  So sweet and so simple—why are we not always this way?

After a while, her eyes slowly open; I see her recognize me.  I hear the final yes in her uninterrupted purr.  As the tears pour down my face I decide that she is called, of all things, Miorita.

Repetition yet not, such is all speech.

Now that I have outed myself as an unabashed cat lover, I might as well include a photo of my own two little house lions.