a trap to catch meddlers.

30Aug08

Warning: Graphic kitty-content below. If your children are prone to nightmares, do not bring them over to our house. Or let them read this post.

My husband has left me. Fortunately, it is only a temporary condition, as he’s spending the week in Paonia at a solar training class. This means that I’ve got nobody to pamper me, humor me, entertain me. I had figured that the silver lining in this lonely week would be that I’d get to spend lots of uninterrupted time blogging. Ha! It’s a lovely fantasy. The reality is that instead of blogging, I’ve been trying to keep things from falling apart around here. Bidding, billing, fixing a flat tire (actually paying a guy named Anthony-who-should-be-named-Jim to fix a flat), dealing with shipping debacles, trying to keep a frustratingly diverse set of customers happy. Also trying to deal with my procrastination tendencies.

Things have been moving along with the house. I swear I am going to provide some updates on all that. But first: cats. Those of you who have actually read this epistle from the beginning may remember my earlier reference to our little kitty crypt under the floor. When we were ripping out the rotten flooring in the living room, we found our friend, Fluffy, who had been mummified along with several of her offspring underneath the living room floor. Meet Fluffy:

We’ve kept her as our macabre mascot. (The perfect Halloween prop!) She’s sort of a symbol of what this house was when we bought it. The house used to be the sort of place where things went to die. Home is supposed to be a place of comfort, inspiration, and security. This house was none of those things when we bought it. Hopefully our unending sweat equity will exorcise those demons.

Ironically, Fluffy is pretty well intact. She evidently crawled under the porch and got underneath the house itself by crawling into a crack between the field stones that make up the decidedly un-modern foundation. From there I can only imagine a bunch of meowing and whimpering that must have driven the occupants of the living room above a bit crazy. This probably happened about 50 years ago. For that last 50 (or so) years, her mummy has been hanging out under our house, waiting for some naive renovator to come along and release her from her tomb. The ironic thing is that we found Fluffly’s crypt under there because the floor above her rotted away, causing us to remove it. The crawl space (if it can be called that, since it was about 6 inches tall at its most glorious point) was un-vented–and a mixture of dry rot, powderpost beetles, and miscellaneous decay caused the whole floor to lose its structural integrity (to put it kindly). Fluffy, who was resting only inches from all that decay, was pretty much unscathed (except for the painful-death-from-starvation part). You can still see her whiskers, her ribs beneath her now-dessicated skin, and yes, even the entrails that seem to be coming out of her mouth.

I should note that one day recently, Luke was out on the front porch, and a little kid, maybe 9 years old, rode by on his bicycle. He saw Luke, and was probably surprised to see a real person associated with this house that had been empty for so long. The kid said, “Hey mister– is that house haunted?” Luke politely informed him that the house is not haunted, and they both went about their business. A quick peek at Fluffy might have convinced the kid otherwise. Maybe we should have left the gruesome nightmare intact, and charged the curious neighborhood kids admission.

In more recent cat news, a few weeks ago we thought we had adopted a real live cat. We’d been having a few problems in our basement with mice–or more likely, the evilest of all rodentia: packrats. So we were kind of happy when we noticed that there was a kittenish creature hanging around the property. She was very friendly, and seemed skinny enough to be interested in some rodent-ala-carte. Before I knew it, Luke was feeding her the remains of our hot dog lunch, “just to keep her around.” We kept feeding her hot dogs, and she kept coming around. She picked up the name “Frankie”– because of the hot dogs. It’s probably a bad sign when you name a creature. It means that you’re getting attached. I started wondering how much it was going to cost to get her spayed & vaccinated. But then she disappeared, and I was oddly disappointed. We were gone from the house for about a week, so maybe she went to look for some other human hot-dog-dispenser. I found a dead bird in the house, and I left it for her in the usual hot-dog spot. The irony of leaving a dead-bird-offering for a cat did not escape me. The bird disappeared, but we haven’t seen Frankie again.

I tried to test her, to see if she was still coming around. So I created a trap to catch meddlers, as Cebah would say. (Cebah is Luke’s aging-but-still-feisty grandmother, who has peppered the family folklore with such descriptive phrases. I think that “a trap to catch meddlers” is her greatest contribution to the lexicon.)

My trap to catch meddlers involved circle of sand in the hot-dog spot, with a food offering in the middle. I figured that if Frankie came to get the food, she’d have to leave her paw-print signature. Indeed, the food was eaten, and paw prints were left, but the circumstantial evidence was inconclusive.

So, for the moment, we’re pet-less. Which is okay, I guess. We’re trying to relish our relative pre-child freedom-from-vomit-on-the-floor, while we still have it. Plus, we never intended to get a cat (and never, never an indoor cat.) When I graduated from Cal, we intended to get a dog. While I was writing my Master’s thesis, Luke kept trying to spur me to completion by promising that I’d get a puppy when I was done. The day I (finally) turned in my thesis to the university, I received this:

One puppy voucher, redeemable at a husband near you.

One puppy voucher, redeemable at a husband near you.

A puppy voucher, signed by none other than Lucas Christy, puppy administrator. Notice how it’s only redeemable for one (1) puppy. (I guess if I want to get two puppies, I’ll have to write another thesis?)

Some people graduate & are rewarded with exciting things like high-paying jobs, a 401K, a new car (payment) or a trip to Hawaii. I got a puppy voucher and a sucker. Yes, a sucker. In all its generosity, the University of California gives you a sucker when you turn in your graduate thesis. The sucker has a wrapper that says, “I Mastered It.” I guess the idea is that you’re supposed to walk away from the office of graduate-thesis-collection with a huge weight lifted off your shoulders, and a sugar high to make your forget any grudges you may happen to carry against your former-slave-master. The Office of Alumni Relations is conveniently located across the hall, so perhaps you’re supposed to skip right across the hall and write out a big fat check before the sugar high subsides. Prior to turning in my thesis, I had heard about the suckers, and I promised Luke that I would share my sugar with him, since he earned it as much as I did (maybe more). I figured that since I had earned two masters degrees, I ought to get two suckers. They only gave me one. I politely pointed out that I’d actually paid for two degrees– and I ought to get two suckers, since they’d raised tuition like 200% since I started (despite a contractual obligation otherwise, which is now a class-action lawsuit, making a public education nearly as costly as a private education– thereby limiting access by the people who need it most). I pleaded my case, but the UC is an immovable force. I went home with my sole sucker, and tried not to feel like a sucker. Anyway, the reality is that Luke doesn’t like to eat candy. He much prefers his sugar fermented into beer.

In the end, I got neither a puppy nor a matching set of suckers. Instead I got a one-way ticket to the San Luis Valley, and a rotten old house. (I’m trying not to be bitter!) But it is our house, and nobody can take it away from us. (Dear readers, please be polite and don’t mention that it’s unlikely that anyone would want to take this place away from us.) So, we’re trying to laugh at ourselves and make the best of it, cherishing those kitty-crypt moments and being glad that we “get to” spend our weekends (re) building our house.

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3 Responses to “a trap to catch meddlers.”

  1. Beware the high-paying job! You will pay. I feel like a sucker for even doing all that graduate work and feel a punkish relief that I am a certified drop out. Have solice that the worst of the rehab work is over and that it is all build from here. It will be a great house soon enough.

  2. 2 Mary Rene

    Whatever you do, don’t make the house look too good, or your taxes will go up. My grandpa parked his car in a lean-to(similar to your old greenhouse), instead of a garage because of the incremental tax added. The lean-to also housed his trash cans full of nuts from his trees. He also grew all of his own vegetables and grandma canned all summer. Maybe you can study canning for your next “thesis.” Keep up the good work, thank God there are some young people immune to house lust.(As opposed to the McMansioners)

  3. Ha! I just read this to Cebah & she laughed. She once gift boxed a mummified rodent and gave it as a present to a friend of mine. That passes for a sense of humor around here!

    Love from both of us!


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