animals, Just bitchin', poem, writing

Ebony

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She follows me,

a slinking, silent presence filled with expectation.

Her coat is dusty.

She’s been rolling in dead leaves,

rubbing her skin against pavement and stems.

She itches;

a pleasure that will turn to torment with age.

A black ghost, a shadow.

I offer food, water, play, affection.

Green-flame eyes bore into mine.

Stupid human not to understand.

They are everywhere.

She is near the end of her life

and her world is thick with spirits

I can’t see.

Yet.

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Just bitchin'

@USPS A Tale of Thieves and Liars

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This is a story about the United States Postal Service.

Be forewarned that this is a true story and will, hopefully, catch the attention of someone with the ability to enact change in this dysfunctional government entity. But…who am I kidding? They could care less. Nonetheless, I’m posting this. Sometimes venting is all that’s left when faced with dishonesty and stupidity.

So…

I expected a package to be delivered today. As usual, I made sure I was home and available to answer the door when the Priority Mail Express parcel showed up.

The hours passed. I kept checking the tracking information online. Toward the end of the day, I was checking it every few minutes, because there have been several occasions in the past when the mail carrier has outright lied and claimed he tried to deliver a package, but no one was home. I’ve complained repeatedly about this situation, which amounts to thievery on the part of the USPS. Why pay for their special services that ensure a package will arrive when their carriers lie about attempting to provide the service for which you paid?

So between one minute and the next, I saw the notice pop up that delivery had been attempted, but no one was home.

Livid, I went out to the street, found the Failed Delivery notice in my box, and stood in the pouring rain waiting for the mail carrier to come by on his return journey.

I should mention I live on a dead end street. He had no choice but to return the way he’d come.

After about 15 minutes, I saw the little, white mail truck headed my way.

I stepped out into the street and waved…displaying the Failed Delivery notice prominently.

He slowed.

He saw.

He hit the gas and nearly ran me down.

I screamed as he raced by, almost clipping me.

Shaking, I returned to my computer and lodged a complaint which mentioned legal action and police involvement.

Then, I followed the instructions and called the phone number on the failed delivery notice to request ‘Redelivery.’ (An impossibility, since no one attempted to deliver anything the first time.) After half an hour of laborious data entry over the phone, I reached the end of the process. The automated voice had verified my tracking number, my phone number, my address, the service I purchased for delivery.

At the very end, it asked for my name.

I gave it. Clearly. Slowly.

Before hanging up on me, the voice said “I’m sorry. There seems to be a problem.”

 

At last the USPS and I agree on something.

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animals, Just bitchin'

#JeSuisChien…I Am Dog

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By now, if you follow Twitter, you’ve seen the massive trend #JeSuisChien.

For those who don’t know, it honors a French police dog named Diesel who perished in this week’s raid on a terrorist cell in the wake of the Islamic State attack on Friday the 13th in Paris.

What you might not have seen is the somewhat feeble backlash. There have been those who question the ‘morality’ of the outpouring of grief on a dog’s behalf when no such phenomenon accompanied the deaths of individual humans. And there have been some who openly laugh at how twisted they believe the world to be when an animal is honored above men.

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My first, gut reaction to these backlashers was anger, because their opinions don’t mesh with my own. But after the initial emotional glitch, I had to give their words some thought. They are opinions after all, and have every right to be voiced.

So…why does the death of a police dog elicit such a deep welling of pure sorrow? Why does the death of a human make my heart sore for a moment, but that of an animal sticks with me and shatters that same heart in a howl of grief?

Well…I’ve never been mugged by a dog, but I have by a man. A dog has never jumped out of the shadows with a knife and stabbed me. A man has. A dog has never broken into my apartment. A man has.

But that’s not enough of a reason.

Think deeper.

When a dog misbehaves, I can usually understand why. Not so with humans. Mankind is capable of a depth of depravity unequaled by other denizens of the animal kingdom.

Man is the only creature capable of true cruelty. Animals don’t have it in them.

Some people will say cats are cruel…the way they play with a mouse instead of killing it outright. That’s instinct. Mankind’s cruelty is by choice.

There’s a tremendous difference.

So, as unbalanced as it may seem to some, I will continue to be more deeply affected by the death of a dog than seems appropriate. I will trust animals more readily than humans. I will welcome a dog into my life more quickly and wholeheartedly than a person who must earn my trust over time.

And even though it was started a bit tongue-in-cheek, I am touched by #JeSuisChien and the gallant animal whose demise it honors. Because just as cruelty abounds in humans more than any other member of the animal kingdom, the opposite is true of nobility.

Dogs have it in spades. Precious few humans do.

RIP, Diesel.

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Homegrown Terrorist

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I share my home with a terrorist.

I used to think he was just a little odd. I would use terms like quixotic, beguiling, manipulative. But that’s all changed. Those days are gone.

He has finally earned the formerly affectionate sobriquet Wicked Evil, for it is now shrieked at volume and with unfolding horror. He has now emerged from the pages of a Stephen King novel, jaws agape and eyes glinting.

It wasn’t always so. His transition from simple mischief to act of terrorism was a gradual one. But now, from the far side of the abyss filled with my screams, I can see it. I can see the learning curve and the hellish intellect behind the progression.

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His evolution meandered with subversive intent from targeted pounces during the deepest phases of sleep, to noisy forays onto countertops, to exploration of architectural integrity, resulting in exposed drywall and shredded door jambs. None of it was random. I see that now.

I appeased him along the way, which was a mistake of monumental proportions. I saw myself as the peacekeeper when in fact I was the dupe; the lab rat being subjected to stimuli until one of sufficient power to produce the desired reaction was found.

He succeeded.

He released it into my bed, scaly and writhing.

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It generated the ‘extremely loud and incredibly close’ reaction for which he was hoping. He’s still laughing in that quiet way his kind do.

Having found the catalyst, he will try to apply it again. I can tell.

I live with a terrorist.

For I am terrified…

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Season of Bounty

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The calendar says ‘Not yet.’

The budding trees say ‘Almost.’

But Spring is here.

It crept into my home this morning. Actually, it was carried in. It was deposited with loving care on my bed before I knew what was happening. It was released beside my elbow as I lingered in the last, dusky shreds of sleep.

It electrified me.

It bolted me from my rest and my sheets, and the security of Winter slumber hitherto undisturbed by those who walk on four paws and bring…gifts… It burrowed under my comforter and snuggled deep with desperation rooted in its instinct to survive.

Spring is here.

I know because the invasion has begun and I have been pressed into the dual role of victim of, as well as EMT for, vermin.

My cat, Jack Sparrow, is thrilled. This is the time when he can truly express his gratitude for being adopted from a shelter. This is when, after long, cold, barren months, he can shower me with an embarrassment of feline riches. This is when he gets to watch the ensuing chaos after bringing me his version of ‘breakfast in bed.’

It amuses him. I can tell.

He takes a ringside seat and watches the race to find a receptacle that is mouse-worthy. Tail twitching, he sees how clumsily I trap his ‘gift’ in the drinking glass that will never be allowed to touch my lips again. Not after this. His whiskers tilt forward and his ears tilt back as his scantily-clad, furless owner dashes out into the chill morning air in search of a site where the ‘gift’ may be released with a reasonable expectation of escape and survival.

Deep inside, Jack Sparrow does a cat-chuckle.

Because he knows where to find more ‘gifts.’ And he will. A weekly, if not daily, progression of small, scurrying, squeaking bounty await him.

Spring is here.

The only thing more alarming is Summer.

That’s when the snakes appear.

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Alternative Rites of Christmas

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Every family celebrates the holidays with a touch of individuality.

Those little quirks acquired along the way eventually transform into tradition.

The earliest remembrance I have of mine was around the age of four.

We’d been decorating the Christmas tree, that huge pine-scented presence that brought magic and happy expectation into our home. Someone of my tender years wasn’t allowed to do much. While the others adjusted lights, draped tinsel, and placed strategic puffs of angel’s hair, my primary task was to put hooks on the ornaments. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, I pulled each delicate, blown-glass piece from its nest of tissue paper, attached the wire hook and placed the finished product to one side for someone else to have the honor of hanging.

Low to the ground, I saw things the others didn’t. Like the way the tree’s water supply was already littered with pine needles. Like the way the cottony-white skirt sprinkled with glitter caught the light, shimmering like an echo of the magnificence towering above it.

Like the family dog, Tio, having his way with a light bulb.

All our decorations were handed down from grandparents I’d never known. The lights were antiquated: large, heavy things, tapering from a broad end with the screw cap to a rounded tip. Tio had managed to engulf the whole ensemble, leaving only the tip poking between his lips like a glossy, green bubble.

Neither Tio nor I recognized the danger of the situation. He wagged his tail in contentment, sucking on his new toy. But my laughter at the ridiculous picture he presented alerted my mother. Scolding, she pulled the bulb from Tio’s mouth, then replaced it with a green-tinted biscuit.

Dogs are smart. They remember.

Every year thereafter, Tio demanded a biscuit in return for refraining from mouthing light bulbs.

At some point, we began leaving the biscuit on a low-lying branch of the tree. Tio would snatch it up and consider his ransom demand met.

But that made the cats jealous.

Food wouldn’t placate Buffy and Phoebe. Oh, no. They wanted the crash and dazzle of breakage. They wanted an interactive batting practice. And so began the tradition that still continues today.

The Rite of the Sacrificial Ornament.

It must be large. It must be shiny. It must hang low.

Its demise must be met with a humble, human willingness to clean up the mess.

If these conditions are not met at the outset, then woe to the entire tree. It will not survive. However, make the sacrifice and nothing else is required.

It astonishes me that this bargain has passed from generation to generation of pets as well as people. At least that’s how I see it. I put up my first tree on my own, in my own apartment only to have it decimated by Boots, a cat who had never been party to previous Rites of Sacrifice. It was with an almost occult shiver of skepticism that I righted the tree, cleaned up the damage, and then, with disbelieving fingers, hung a sacrificial ornament.

Boots accepted it. The rest of the tree was left inviolate. And so it continued.

This rite persists. It is weird in its reliable performance.

But I suppose the same could be said of my family.

We are the practitioners of the Rite of the Sacrificial Ornament.

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Human Hubris

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I know a couple verging on senior citizenship. They are professionals. They are well-off financially. They are parents and grandparents. They are educated and well-traveled.

They send me cute, little e-mail greeting cards at the drop of a hat. New Year’s. Valentine’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Arbor Day. Thanksgiving. And Christmas…assuredly Christmas.

But not Halloween. Never, ever Halloween.

They associate All Hallow’s Eve with Satanism…Devil Worship…Eternal Damnation…

They worry about me. Because of my Celtic heritage and the way I embrace a night of costumes and folklore and imagination. They have recommended their church to me in hopes that I will join and ‘find the companionship that has so enriched our lives.’

But I know what they’re really saying. The poor girl with the Welsh ancestors needs saving. And being the good people they are, they will not shrink from the task of hammering out that pagan streak of innocence; replacing it with their own particular brand of Christianity.

I was raised Christian. I wear a fleur-de-lys cross . (I guess my French heritage passes muster with them, but I could be as wrong about that as I am wrong to celebrate Halloween.) I pray. I donate to charity regularly no matter what my financial circumstances of the moment. I cry when animals get hurt. I believe in things that are eternal and beautiful. And I have fun once a year in a shivery, fake-horror, too-many-sweets way.

And these people who cringe away from Halloween, who endeavor to live up to the standards they wish everyone would adopt, do things that horrify me. Most recently they confided that they were sorry they had to kill raccoons that trespassed on their newly-sodded lawn.

‘We spent so much to have it all made nice. We just couldn’t let animals destroy it.’

They trapped and killed the creatures themselves. ‘But we said a prayer for our souls with each one we put down.’

Well, I guess that makes it all okay, doesn’t it?

They believe such action is acceptable, because ‘animals have no souls.’

Ah, yes. The hubris of the human race. Like a story in the news some months ago. After extensive study of the electrical impulses in their brains and comparison to synonymous paths in those of humans, it was declared that dogs are indeed capable of feeling love.

Gosh, really? Did you really need to spend vast amounts of time with extremely expensive equipment to come to that conclusion? I could have told you dogs feel love. And cats. And pretty much any creature you take the time to know.

The hubris of the human race. Again.

Next thing you know, they’ll be announcing that animals…yes, even animals!…have souls. But first they’ll have to prove that humans do, so there will be something to use as a baseline comparison.

I’m not sure they can. At least, not all of us…. Must be that rebellious, Celtic streak.

 

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