I have to say, the past weekend doesn’t leave me with high hopes for a smooth adolescence. On Thursday Kate was sick with a fever. On Friday, she announced she felt "fine" and, with some misgivings, I let her go to school (it was Wacky Hair Day). On Saturday, she couldn’t talk. Or rather, she could talk in a strangled voice that sounded like it came through an underwater filter. Imagine this croaky little voice, then: "I feel fine. My throat feels good. It hurts maybe the eensiest, teensiest little bit."
Long lecture about lying, how wrong it is, how important it is to tell the truth, especially about your health. "Now," I said. "How do you really feel?"
Croaky voice: "Fine. Really."
Alan took her to urgent care. She has raging strep throat, plus two ear infections.
The last time I had strep throat I was so sick I could barely roll over in bed. Kate denies she’s sick because it means she has to stay home from school and can’t play with her friends, a fate she evidently fears worse than punishment for lying, which is pretty much the same thing.
A sick kid in the house, even a sick kid in denial, makes for sort of a droopy weekend. The weather was glorious, but I spent too much of it inside. So what, I got most of my reading done, and since it wasn’t the kind of reading that feels like work, it was hardly an unpleasant task. I took a couple of indolent naps. And on Saturday there was a small Fellow potluck at one of our rented houses, hereafter known as the Cat House.
The Cat House is owned, needless to say, by a woman who loves cats too much. On the front step? Cat welcome mat. Inside the door? Cat welcome mat. On the wall? Cat switchplates, cat prints, cat cartoons. On the floor? Cat rugs. Hanging from doorways and ceilings? Cat mobiles, cat clocks, etc. Framed posters? Sure — "Le Chat Noir." On the kitchen wall? Taped-up printout: "Top 10 Things Your Pet Would Tell You if it Could Talk." On the coffee table? "Catmopolitan" magazine. Is there any decorative art in evidence that is not cat-related? Why, no. Are there cat potholders? But of course.
Mitigating factor: The place did not smell like cat pee, not even a whiff. Whatever else she is, she’s a diligent kitty-litter changer.
At one point, scanning the bookshelves, I saw a photo album. Reasoning she wouldn’t have left it on the shelf if it were embarrassingly personal, I took it down and leafed through it. Cat pictures.
The tenant Fellow said he’d mentioned to someone at the U. that he was living in this woman’s house while she went on sabbatical. The other person did not say, "Oh, the cat lady," but "Oh, the brilliant" whatever-she-is. That’s one thing about academia I’d forgotten about — how often off-the-charts intellect is accompanied by some truly weird personal idiosycrasies. At one of our recent functions, Alan sat at the other end of the crowd and said, later, "There was a wino sitting in front of me."
"Don’t be ridiculous," I said. "This was an invitation-only affair."
"No, really," he said. "He had on crummy clothes, and he smelled sort of boozy, and he had chronic hiccups," like a cartoon drunk. This being Ann Arbor, though, he could have been a wino, or he could have been an internationally renowned expert on Sino-Japanese trade relations.
Why are cat people so weird? I’ve had very few experiences in my life I’d call "like a David Lynch movie," but one of them came one evening when I was driving home after a night out and remembered I needed something at the grocery — coffee, probably. I stopped at the all-night market. Only one checkout lane was open, and I took my place in line behind a tiny old man dressed impeccably in very fine clothing that looked at least 50 years old, right down to the bow tie and fedora. He had a full cart. On closer inspection, I noticed every item in it was cat-related — boxes of kibble, all brands; cans of food, all brands; bags of litter, all brands; even a cat toy or three.
He turned around very slowly and caught my eye. "I have many cats," he said in a dusty voice. Then he blinked slowly and turned back around. One a.m., Fort Wayne, Indiana, sometime in 1985.
OK, then. Last week I linked to a Mitch Albom column about Warren Zevon that I really didn’t like. Here’s one by Carl Hiaasen, 180 degrees away. P.S. This is how it’s done. A choice snippet:
We talked about the possibility of chemotherapy, and he said he might consider it after the album was done. He said, "If it means lying in bed for two days straight and watching DVDs, that comes perilously close to my life’s ambition."
See you tomorrow, then.