Monday, December 27, 2004

Down the pitch Oliver Oklahoma! makes a darting run. Gooooooooooooooooooooal!

Having been warned that the name of this blog was a slippery slope down which I could so easily slide into the ghetto of encapsulated Catmania, I have carefully excluded cat mentions, cat references and cat kudos from these pages these many weeks. I have not let the hairball wag the cat, as it were. I think the blogosphere has appreciated my restraint. If you Google the Ten Top Cat Blogs of All Time, you will not find Darwin's Cat, which you would if I chose to "cat it up."

Because I can cat it up, baby.

As I result of my restraint, I thought this blog had achieved a perfect equilibrium, a Zen stillness of energy in counterpoise with wisdom. And then I discovered one of our cats, apparently miffed, had hired a flack.
I discovered this when I started to get press releases from
Mark Satan, who is apparently a partner in the public relations firm of Satan, Satan, Devil, Demon, Dybbuk, Bush and Codpiece. The first release -- snail mail, 37-cent Eubie Blake commemorative stamp -- said, "Like the legendary Brazilian soccer stars Pele, Kaka and Robinho, local cat personality Oliver is known by but a single name."

Well, what?

There wasn't even a news hook, no context, no nothing. I was tempted to tell Oliver he was wasting his money, but it's his money. And who am I to interfere with someone else's pursuit of a livelihood when, at the end of the day, no harm is done except the osmotic transfer of excess capital? That's why when I am reading a newspaper on the bus or on BART, as I finish a page I ball it up and throw it on the floor, to keep the unions working.

The second release was a little better. It began, "Heard around town: Local cat Oliver commenting, 'It's a little embarrassing being named after a Broadway musical. It could have been worse. I could have been named Oklahoma!'" That wasn't so bad. Adding the phrase, "Over martinis at Haight Street's fabled
Persian Aub Zam Zam..." would have given it a little texture, painted in a little background, created a little synergy with another client. But even without that, it read like an item. I was tempted to drop Mark Satan a note, saying, "Try Leah Garchik." Tempted -- but no. Not funny enough. I'm no Herb Caen, but I can tell snap from crackle and crackle from pop.

Still, just when you think
some PR guy is really a fool, he will surprise you. Yesterday I got a 2-pound box of See's assorted chocolates with a hand-written note: "What about the rat?"

When there really is a story, that's all it takes when you are dealing with
a trained professional journalist who has seen enough and perhaps too much.

What about the rat?

Faithful readers recall when Oliver discovered we had a "mouse" -- for that is what I insisted in the face of my wife's repeated RATRATRATRAT -- back in November. At first I though he killed it or chased it away, but then something started shredding the butter cookies and invading the instant cocoa. And, man, those little turds. It was clear Oliver wasn't up to rodent elimination, either because of an innate pacifism or perhaps a deep world-weariness that the cynic will dismiss as incompetence. Anyway, I went through a series of traps: the little grey plastic "safe capture" traps; the easy-disposal kill trap with the tiny door through which the mouse is supposed to enter while the other mice sing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"; the regular old-fashioned Victor-brand spring-loaded skull crusher, all of which my wife said would not work because they were too small, given the fact she knows rat turds when she sees them.

Finally, in what seemed an effort to taunt us, the rodent started depositing his little raisins on top of our rollout cupboard for all to see. I put one of the old-fashioned traps up there. This was maybe ten days ago. Next morning around 6 a.m. well before sunrise, I was awakened by Oliver going through a whole series of vocalizations, sounds never heard before, as if he were speaking in tongues. I turned on the light and there on the floor was a juvenile rat, much too large for the safe-capture trap or the disposable trap with the little mouse door.

"Good job! Oliver. Good job!"

The rat, stunned but alive, was disposed of. Oliver was fed the choicest tidbits. Splendid cat who lulled the rat into false complacency and then struck with the precision of an atomic clock! But then when we got up for the day, new evidence was discovered that does not disgrace Oliver but certainly makes it less likely we will try to get him an audition for
RatMaster 2: Death Purr.

I saw that the small trap on top of the cupboard had snapped. Caught between its wooden base and its spring-powered cudgel was a single rodent hair. And so we pieced the story together.

1) The rat advances, attracted by the peanut butter I had placed as bait.

2) The trap closes, too small to kill but certainly able to stun.

3) Oliver, drawn by the sound or loitering nearby, suddenly sees a semi-conscious rat come raining down like manna -- or pennies; pick your fantasy -- from heaven.

I would rather it were otherwise. I would rather Oliver had like Achilles before the walls of Troy at last from his tent emerged to slay his enemy. But it appears that, more like Falstaff in Henry IV, Part One, he
merely confronted a prostrate adversary and struck an irrelevant blow.

For all I know, it was a Midnight Cowboy thing, and he was bringing the rat to me for immediate medical attention. Cue the lyrics to Lili Marlene.

It's finally all a mystery, isn't it? Mark Satan had it right. Sometimes all you can do is ask the question.

What about the rat? What about the rat?


G Pabst said...

Where to begin?

The rat is a palimpsest of Oliver's story, a scraping away of the original text to speak another story entirely.

Or, it's as if the folk song "The Cat Came Back (the very next day) is overwritten by "The Rat Came Back (the very next day)." And left his droppings which neither you - and one assumes, Oliver, as your avatar - could eschew, no matter that Rat meant not challenge but simple excretion.

You and Oliver, as the hegemonic superiors, chose those supposed raisens of filth as a challenge.

One must assume that, through his rejection by the abiding culture, the lesser empowered rodent is finally trumpted by the cat's greater status vis-a-vis its culturally fabled nine lives (a principal of an Appolonian sewer cult if ever one was).

For to the culture of man/cat colonialism, the cat symbolizes order/power while the rat stands in place of chaos/weakness - though cleverly circumscribed - because the rat's superior power is in the numbers.

The Norwegian rat, we are told by expert officials of Public Health, has a population roughly equal to that of humans on earth. And while cat-ladies with 30+ felines laying about the house receive regular press attention by some secret journaliatic caballic calendar, few of us maintain more than a pussycat predator or two.

Suggesting that it is our false power that cloaks Felix in the trappings of dynamism while Mickey hides fecundly in the walls and, with his consort, Minnie, lays waste the seen civilization in unseen - but not unexpected - ways.

(My best impersonization of Derrida. Forever forgive me. This is what you get when you go trolling for responses.)

Once again, nice work, O Brave Blogger. I haven't had a need to write like this in many a semester. It was fun...


Anonymous said...

I like Oliver more than I like Bucket, both the name and the cat, but that's probably not what you were hoping for.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

I think my next cat will be named Palimpsest.

Anonymous said...

For all the mincing and literary preening going on here -- have people been reading too much Henry James? -- rats are not something to fuck with. Friend living in the woods suffered an infestation one winter. They gnawed holes in walls, made counter tops and shelves their playgrounds, spread filth all over. A state of siege developed and my pal cowboyed up. Poisons, traps, even an ill-advised St. Bernard (too slow and clumsy) were deployed. He stockpiled clubs and cudgels in key rooms, ready for combat. But they eluded him until shortly before Christmas. He happened into the living room one night where one of the brutes was taking an interest in the candy canes on the Christmas tree. Arming himself with a baseball bat, he advanced expecting a foe that would cut and run. Instead, the brute ran at him like a black night from a sally port. He swung and missed, the rat feinted another charge and the next blow took down the Christmas tree. This combat went on for some time with more wreckage, not ending until he connected with a lucky swing. My own experience came in springtime. Our cat chased a rat inside through an open window in the wee hours. Awakening to this, I switched on the light and saw cat and rat in a face off, each waiting for the other to make a move. (Cats are not very good at this sort of thing, despite Tom and Jerry and other myths). Equipping myself with a broom, I struck at it. The beast rushed at my bare toes, giving me a serious case of happy feet. I dispatched him finally with a rap of the broom handle. Cornered rats do fight. Carry a weapon.

Pastor Kathy said...

Well, I am going to give Oliver the benefit of the doubt. Good for him! Years ago in my suburban Atlanta home, Sunshine Supercat brought me "a mouse the size of a kitten" (my description) to the bedroom door one morning before dawn. Together we got it into a paper bag and out the door into the woods. I immediately took 'Shine to the vet for her overdue rabies shot. When the vet heard my description of the mouse, he asked, "Did it have a long tail?" Ummm...One professional rat killer later, and I was shoveling up seven dead rats in the basement on Christmas Eve (they do NOT go outside to die when your basement is nice and warm).

Thank you for the link to my blog. I suppose the blasphemous blogger is a tip of the hat to editorial balance (our local paper prints a conservative and a liberal columnist on its editorial pages). I can go with that.