October 27, 2014


Last Halloween, as you know if you’ve been following this column, we lost the cat.
Well, the cat was actually running in mortal terror of the Toilet Monster, and we haven’t seen him since.
I missed having a cat, so we went to the shelter and picked up another one.  He’s a beautiful, sleek black—the ebony version of Grumpy cat.  I named him Poe, and I love him to pieces.
Or I did until last Thursday.
We were eating dinner, when Poe sauntered into the room.
He looked to his left and immediately stopped sauntering.  His back went up, his tail looked like a bottle brush, and he began hissing like a leaky steam iron.
“What in the hell is wrong with that animal?” Stij asked, distracted from his steak and potatoes.
 I looked where Poe was looking.  “I don’t know, unless he’s taken a sudden murderous dislike to the potted azalea.”
“What’s it ever done to him?”
“Hey, cats take offense at almost anything.  I had one once that had a lawyer on speed-dial.  Did you know that cats are the biggest filers of frivolous lawsuits in the country today?”
Stij got up.  “I’m moving the azalea to the bedroom so I can have my dinner in peace.”
The cat calmed down, and we went back to our supper.
The next thing we knew…."Hissssssss, spit, spit, spit, hisssssssssss!"
He was looking at the glass door to the patio this time.
I got THE LOOK from Stij.  I had to do some fast talking to get him to agree to another cat, and things were going sideways fast.  “He sees his reflection in the door, hon, that’s all.”
“Well, I’m not going to listen to this through the whole meal!  Give him some food—maybe that will shut him up."
The cat, well aware that he was being discussed in disparaging terms, pulled out his cell phone, and raised a claw over the key pad.
“Come on, Poe. How about some nice Fancy Feast?” I said.
He grudgingly put his phone away and followed me to the kitchen, where he hoovered up a bowl of it in record time.  He then reappeared by the dinner table, took one look at the chair leg, and went into overdrive once again—the only difference this time being that he got so upset he threw up his Fancy Feast all over Stij’s new Carhartt work boots.
Before Stij could react with gunplay, I grabbed Poe and shut him in the bathroom.
Dinner proceeded a bit more quietly, if you don’t count the swearing under the breath from across the table.
“I’ve heard that cats can see ghosts.  Do you think we’re haunted?” I asked.
“No, I think we’re plagued.”
“Oh, come on.  Poe’s a cute cat.”
“Have you seen my boot?  I think his barf is eating right through it.”
“He’s a cat, hon.  He’s just being a cat. You can’t expect him to act like a human."
“I’d settle for his acting like a dog…or a stone statue.”
There was a sudden commotion in the bathroom.
We ran back and opened the door to find that Poe had attacked the toilet paper rack and we now had a bathroom that looked like the movie set for White Christmas. The cat was in the toilet, yowling like a banshee.
“Oh, I see you’re giving the Toilet Monster another try this year,” Stij commented.
Once the door was open, Poe sped out, trailing vomit, diarrhea, and toilet water, as well as a bushel of shredded toilet paper behind him.  He chewed his way through the front door, and was gone.
After inspecting the damage and mentally toting up what the repairs would cost, Stij said, “Why don’t you adopt a lion, and really wreck the place?  Our insurance might actually cover that.”
I’m waiting for the dust to settle before I approach Stij about another pet.  I’d kind of like to get a pig…

October 20, 2014


          Halloween is beginning to make me sad.

            Last year, I transformed my entire abode into a walk-through haunted house.  I spared no expense—just ask Stij, he’ll tell you.

When the van from ‘So Scary You’ll Puke’ pulled up, Stij took one look and asked, “Does this mean you’re making that tuna casserole again?”
“No, it does not.  And what do you mean, ‘again?’  I haven’t made that in nearly five years now.”
“It lives on in song and story. I heard that Zantac made an ad campaign around it.”
“Tee hee.  For your information, I decided to make this into a haunted house for Halloween.  Isn’t that a great idea?”
“And this van would be carrying everything you need to do this?”
“I’m going out for a drink.”
“But it’s 7:30 in the morning!”
“It’s five o’clock somewhere.  See you later.”
On my own, now, I directed the two men in the unloading then offered them lunch, upon which they turned ashy white, jumped in their truck and left two slabs of burnt rubber in the driveway.  Oh, well, it saved me a tip.
I immediately set to work, draping, hooking things up, and plugging things in.  I only had one day to get all this done, because Halloween was that evening; but at last, all was in readiness.
I’d do a test run with Stij when he got home.
I curled up on the sofa, with my crossword puzzle book, to wait—and that’s when things began, as the British say, ‘to go all pear-shaped.’
I heard a muffled wailing from the bathroom.
I went to investigate.  That’s where I put the monster that snaps at your butt when you raise the toilet seat cover.
I pushed the door open all the way, and discovered that the thing in the toilet had been activated…by the cat.  It had snapped at him, grabbed him by the head, and was now drowning him in the toilet. 
I think he kept the wailing low-key because he didn’t want to be found in such an undignified position.
I snatched him from the jaws of the toilet demon, but rather than being grateful, the little wretch’s eyes glowed blood red, and he began speaking in tongues. I put him down and he set off for parts unknown, leaving cat curses and toilet water in his wake.  I would have been pleased that he had been frightened by one of my props, but he was also scared of the vacuum cleaner, so it hardly counted.
I heard Stij pull up.  Great!  A real test subject!
I had locked the door after he left, and when he knocked on it, scary sound effects screamed out of the small speaker above the door.
“Hey, not bad!” Stij said, when I opened up. “Let’s see what else you’ve got.”
There was Jack the Ripper in the closet, a skeleton in the kitchen that seemed to move on its own, and a life-size Leatherface sitting on the sofa in the den.  He looked like a prop until, by remote control, I turned his head, started his chain saw, and made him stand and walk. I had ghosts coming through the walls, demons dancing in the living room, and Dracula hanging from the ceiling with eyes that opened with a remote.  There were bats and cobwebs and spiders and snakes everywhere.
“This is really great, hon,” Stij said. “Those kids are going to wet their pants!”
“As long as they do it outside.”
The sun had just about set, and before long, there was a knock at the door.
Cue scary music.
I opened the door to two moppets with exasperated expressions on their painted faces.  One was a hobo and one was a ballerina.  Parental units were standing off on the sidewalk.
“Ooooooooooh, scarrrrrrrryyyyyyyy,” the hobo said with as much sarcasm as someone who has occupied the planet for only five years can muster.
“Okay,” I said, “then come on in and see the rest of the place!”
“It’s a haunted house.  Don’t you want to walk through it?  Your parents can come if you’re scared.”
“Yeah, right,” the hobo sneered, elbowing past me.  The ballerina followed. “Let’s get this over with.”
They walked past everything with nary a shudder, but I’d get ’em with Leatherface, I just knew it.
Into the den.
“Who’s that?” the ballerina asked, pointing at Leatherface.
“That’s Leatherface from ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,’” I said.
“We saw that last Halloween, Karen.  'Member?” hobo said.
“Oh, yeah!” And with that, she ran over and planted a big kiss on ol’ Leatherface's cheek.  I made his head move.  I started his chain saw.  I stood him up and all they did was laugh.
They laughed at the cobwebs.
They laughed at the demons.
They laughed at the ghosts.
And they laughed so hard at the toilet monster that I thought they were going to pass out.
As they walked out the door, candy in hand, the ballerina turned to me and said, “Lady, it’s Halloween.  Things are supposed to be scary, not funny.” Then, her fount of kindergarten wisdom drained, she ran to join her brother.  They laughed all the way down the street.
This happened all evening long.  The only one I actually scared was the damned cat!
Well, these kids may think they’re unscare-able, but this Halloween, I’ll have them all shaking in their boots, screaming and crying for their mommies.
I'm handing out tuna casserole instead of candy.




October 13, 2014


There is little that will reduce a room full of ordinary, civilized adults to terrified, shrieking infants faster than a bat fluttering through their personal space.
But let me backtrack a bit.
I had the misfortune of attending a dinner party recently.  The words “misfortune” and “dinner party” are actually synonymous, so please forgive the redundancy.  At any rate, hors d’ouevres found me engrossed in an absolutely fascinating discussion about the myriad of ways requiring the use of motorcycle helmets is adversely affecting our rights under the Constitution.  This fellow seemed to have a great deal of respect for, not only the Constitution as he viewed it, but for the sound of his own voice, as well.  I soon realized that all I’d have to do to keep up my end of the conversation was to nod occasionally and avoid turning to stone.
Just when I had decided that this person truly didn’t need to avail himself of a motorcycle helmet, since he had nothing worth protecting anyway, a diminutive uninvited quest made his presence known.
Things immediately became more interesting.
For some odd reason, women confronted by a bad flying about will immediately cover their heads while emitting wails that can lead to avalanches in higher elevations.  What they fail to realize is that bats couldn’t care less about closely inspecting their dye jobs.  Bats have no fashion sense.  It’s all the same to them if your hair is L’Oreal Blonde, Clairol Brunette, or Joe’s Midnight Maroon.  They also do not become entangled in one’s coif.  As a matter of fact, unless you have a swarm of flying insects hanging about the earrings, bats are unlikely to be interested in your company. . . especially at a dinner party.
They do have some standards.
So, the poor bat was fluttering around, just trying to find the fastest way out of there; and since I had been pursuing a similar, and unsuccessful, course of action ever since I had arrived an hour ago, I didn’t hold out too much hope for the little fellow’s chances.
Ah, but he had one thing on his side that I didn’t have.
Intimidation and fear.
Well, two things, then.
Once the males in the group tumbled to the fact that the ladies weren’t screaming because someone was wearing white shoes after Labor Day, they swept into action.
“What should we do?” they cried, in unison.
An overly muscled athletic sort with an audible tan snatched up a nearby tennis racket (and isn’t there always one nearby?) and advanced on the creature with the requisite blood in the eye.
I, being an animal lover in the extreme, did my part by sticking out my foot at the right time. . .or the wrong time, depending upon your perspective.  He went down like a sack of. . .well, he went down.
Game and Set.
“All right!  HOLD IT DOWN!” I shouted above the din.
An eerie silence, except for the soft fluttering of erratic flight, reigned.
“When I was in the Orient, I learned a trick to call bats,” I explained.  “If you will all adjourn to the next room and close the doors behind you, I’ll get the bat out of the house with no bloodshed or damaged crockery.”
Even Pauly Shore couldn’t have cleared that room faster.
After the doors were latched and secure, I held up my hand and the bat lit on my wrist.
“What the devil took you so long, Bart?  I was bored to tears!”  I exclaimed, scratching him behind the ears.  “Come on.  Let’s get out of here.  There’s a grasshopper at home with your name on it.”
Nobody could blame me for this.  I was only following the instructions on the invitation.  If they didn’t want me to “B.Y.O.B.,” they shouldn’t have told me to.
I tucked Bart into his cage in the back seat of my car and left.
Dinner Party: 0,  Bat: 1
Game, Set, and Match.


October 7, 2014


         It’s often been said that men lead lives of quiet desperation.

Trust me, when a man gets sick, it’s either too quiet or not quiet enough.  You ladies know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever had to deal with a man who is ill.

There are two distinct types of men in these circumstances, and each is extreme.  Men do not do things halfway.

The first type is the Stoic.  He’s a macho guy, and will neither desire nor require attention of any kind.  You will not even know he was sick until you find him dead.  He will refer to a mangled appendage as a “cut” and will ignore pain; or, at least, will never admit to it.  Our Stoic will not think twice about going to work with something contagious – like leprosy – and will continue to work while body parts drop off.  He’ll fix the car while he’s bleeding to death from a drive-by bullet wound.  He’ll play poker with his buddies the day after quadruple bypass surgery.  He will not stop.  He’s the Energizer Bunny of humanity.  He is the real reason they nails coffins shut.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the Whiner.

To the Whiner, every sneeze is pneumonia, every headache a brain tumor.  An upset stomach is always good for a white-knuckled trip to the emergency room and a speeding ticket to add to the collection.  If you’re not sure of your guy is a Whiner, there’s an easy way to find out.  Just walk into any emergency room in the state in which you live.  If you are greeted by name by any member of the staff, then, honey, you’ve definitely got yourself a Whiner.

Okay, so he’s wheeled into the emergency room, is examined by an exasperated doctor (who has real emergencies to attend to), and is told, for the umpteenth time, to go home and stay in bed for a day.

You must have done something to offend this doctor for him to wish this on you.  Maybe he’s getting you back for that emergency appendectomy you had to have last year that interrupted the only golf game he was winning . . . in his life . . .that he had big money riding on.

“Your wife will give you all the TLC you need.”  He looks at you and smiles evilly.  Oh, yeah.  Had to be that appendectomy.

After arriving at Home Sweet, he climbs into bed under at least 10 layers of electric blankets, with a thermometer jammed in his mouth.  By the end of the day, you’ll want to jam it someplace else, on the pretext of getting a more accurate reading.

Just to cheer himself up, he’s watching a video of “Camille,” and looking as miserable as Dennis Miller in a deaf mute ward.  And in case he’s not in stitches by the end of “Camille,” he has videos of “Last Holiday” and “Philadelphia” as backup, as well as a copy of Death, Be Not Proud on his nightstand.

When you ask him if he needs anything, he’ll respond, “Yes.  A gun with one bullet.”

“But you only have a headache.”

Don’t ever say, “only.”

In response, you will get a diatribe regarding your lack of sympathy and a litany of descriptive phrases detailing the massive pain he is currently suffering, and the fact that this headache isn’t a “normal” headache, but feels like it could be brain cancer, winding up with “I only wanted the gun to shoot myself in the arm to distract me from the pain in my legs.  I think I may have an embolism, or something.”

And never smoke around this person, unless you care to spend the next few hours listening to a graphically described harangue on the effects of secondhand smoke.  This one will develop a smoker’s hack at the mere sight of a cigarette, lit or not.

He has pills to counteract the deadly interactions of his other pills.  He owns a hospital bed, a cardiac monitor, and a blood pressure cuff.  His food must be overcooked and unpalatable, and the only dessert he’ll eat is Jell-O.  He must be kept from watching all television medical dramas because, immediately following such entertainment, he will develop all the symptoms of the plot disease.  The fact that it’s a type of flesh-eating malady found only in a small town in Liechtenstein, and he’s never traveled outside his town in the U.S. will not deter him.  He will declare that the germs were brought in on the clothing of some careless traveler with a death wish.

He takes so many vitamins that Centrum had to hire a second shift.  He gets personal Christmas cards from the presidents of Upjohn, Eli Lily, and Merck.  He gets a fruit basket from his local drug store every year on his birthday.  His doctor sends him tapes of Marcus Welby reruns just before his daughter’s tuition payment is due.

In short, either way, Stoic or Whiner, men are men. 

And really…would we have it any other way?