Friday, June 5


Continuation of the animal thing from earlier. I don't know how to be brief. Deal.

My family was so bad at dealing with cartoon animals that you would think we’d have stayed away from the living, breathing kind, but oh no. Once over a few beers, my Dad and I figured up how many cats that I’d had, compared with how many cars he’d wrecked. I won by a nose.

Over the course of my childhood, I went through 16 cats. Either they got too cozy on wheels of the family cars, wandered into the dog’s pen or just decided that they were better off taking their chances in the wild. We had a couple of canine tragedies along the way, but thankfully, they were few and slightly more typical. Except for the time our black Labrador, Smut went missing. We searched for hours. Finally, we found him in the neighbor’s yard tied to a tree. Our neighbor was getting ready to shoot him with a bow and arrow, Nugent style. Apparently, she had some pet ducks and unbeknownst to us, Smut had been eating them. Grandma had had enough and was ready to take out the duck menace, when my Dad arrived. I think that it was one of the few times my Dad diffused a situation without using the word “motherfucker.”

Whenever one of my cats would wander off or meet an untimely end, my Dad would usually pat me on the head and say, “It’s just a cat. I’ll go out to the dumpster after dinner and get you a new one.” And he would. Cats were expendable in our household. But there was one instance when my parents really did try to spare my feelings when one of my cats did a disappearing act. I had a big, beautiful tabby cat named Mitchell that decided to go on a walkabout one day, "don't tell me what I can't do!" we heard him yelling as he ran down the dirt road from our house in one of those hind-leg kitty wheelchairs. Oh wait, that was Lost, nevermind.

After weeks of mourning my lost furry friend, my Mom and Dad surprised me when they "found" Mitchell. They proclaimed that all sadness could now end. Except for one thing, it wasn't Mitchell. They'd tried and failed at the classic parenting grift: getting another cat that looked like Mitchell and trying to pass him off, as if all tabby cats looked the same. Nice try, but just because I was four didn't mean I was a sucker. In my childish wisdom, I began to call him “Mitchell II.” They kept asking me why I was calling him Mitchell II and I just said "because he's not Mitchell." 

Through the years, we went through Mitchell III, Mitchell IV, etc., But it was Mitchell VII that has entered into Kitty Cat lore with his extraordinary struggle for life, and his untimely death. I hear that they are going to make a movie out of it called Mitchell:Swamp of Justice but they haven't decided if it's going to be on Lifetime: Television for Women or SciFi. Either way, it's going to be some goooooood watchin'. If it is on Lifetime I hope that they get Melissa Joan Hart to play my Mom, and if it's on SciFi I hope that it's Dina Meyer from Starship Troopers. I don't think that she's too busy these days. Maybe she can squeeze it in between Web of Desire and Saw IV.

Anyway, it started because we had Mitchell living illegally with us in our apartment in Raleigh. And while my Mom likes to think of herself as a bad-ass, the truth is, she's really not a rule breaker at heart. Having that cat in our apartment tore her nerves apart. It wasn't even like we weren't supposed to have animals, we just hadn't paid a pet deposit. But after four months of being completely preoccupied with the situation, writing scenarios in her head for the landlord of why we had this cat, she just couldn't take it anymore and we took the cat to her boyfriend's house in White Lake.

Now if you aren't from North Carolina, one thing that you need to be briefed on is that there are certain sections of our coastal areas that yes, may have a lake, but chances are also have a swamp directly across the road. So while the lake is really cool, it's best to have a lookout while everyone goes in for an afternoon swim. Usually, if you see something that looks like a tire floating in the water, it's not a tire and you should get out. When a coastal community lives with alligators (not to be confused with their more aggressive cousin, the Crocodile Dundee), occasionally things can go missing. Like small pets and everyone once and again a small child, but even the guys that hang around the gas station will tell you that almost never really happens all that often, except when it does.

So Mitchell really seemed to really like the lake house, hung out pretty close to Keanu and things were great for awhile. Well, apparently as Mitchell grew more comfortable in his new surroundings, he decided that it would be prudent to go exploring, and exploring he did a-go. And, like a dumb ass the first place he went was right across the street to the swamp. He did some cat stuff and climbed a tree and went out on a limb. And just like when stupid humans do it, that limb broke and dumped him right into alligator soup. Yet somehow, miraculously, Mitchell survived. He swam into the swamp onto land and found a safe place to cry. And cry, and cry and cry. You know, sound carries really well over stagnate water.

So now imagine as a kid trying to sleep listening to your cat crying that mournful cat cry from a swamp across the street. Now imagine my Mom trying to sleep and being constantly woke up by her daughter pleading to go and get him. "They're going to eat him, Mommy." I cried. "PLEASE!" At first she was very consoling, at 3 in the morning I think she was ready to shoot the cat to get him and me to shut up. Eventually, she shut the windows and turned on the air conditioner so we couldn't hear him. First thing in the morning though, she was greeted with "Mommy are you going to go get Mitchell? Please?" Finally after breakfast, my Mom and her boyfriend (who for the record, I adored) armed with only a raw hot dog and a pillowcase loaded themselves in the only vessel they had, a blow up raft and set off for the swamp and Operation Pet Rescue.

Those two paddled their way over there and they were both shaking so bad that they almost tipped themselves over a couple of times. The minute the raft hit the water a couple of gators popped up to see what was going on, but it was by no means a scene from Lake Placid. They seemed to be saying, "hey while you guys are here, could you shut that cat up? Thanks."

They finally reached where Mitchell was and my Mom lured him into the pillowcase with the hot dog. When he finally realized that he'd been captured, he freaked out. He looked a lot like a cartoon cat in a sack. Paws poking from every direction and my Mom holding the sack at arm's length. Over the water I heard her say "If this cat comes out of this bag, he's staying over here."

Once we got him back to the house, Mitchell was one grateful kitty. He was very sweet and stayed right by the house...and that lasted all of about two weeks. He pulled his swamp stunt again one weekend and it replayed in pretty much the same way as before except my Mom flatly refused to be apart of Operation Pet Rescue II: Electric Boogaloo. So her boyfriend and one of his friends brought a cooler of Budweiser along for the ride (they actually loaded it into the raft and took it with them to have a beer break once they got into the swamp). And once again, Mitchell was rescued from certain death, this time a little slower and without dinner but he made it out alive, which was about all he could ask for at this point.

Lather, rinse and repeat. Mitchell had been sticking around the house for a good bit until one day I saw him dart across the road. "Oh no you don't," I said. Having been told that under no circumstances would there be any more rescues for this cat, I chased after him only to watch as he climbed an old tree on the edge of the swamp. Higher and higher Mitchell climbed until he reached a limb that seemed like a great place to perch and check out the neighborhood. The whole time he was climbing the tree, I was yelling after him, admonishing him "to remember what happened last time you did this." Just as that dumb-assed cat settled in, I heard the crack of old rotten wood giving way as it dumped the limb and Mitchell into the swamp. I stood there shaking my head waiting to lecture him when he came to the surface. But then there seemed to be a slight commotion under the surface of the water, and then quiet. I waited a while, but Mitchell never showed up for his lecture. It was one of the first times that I was actually pissed off at an animal for getting killed because of his pee brain. But that didn't mean that I wasn't upset. I ran home crying trying to tell the story through hyperventilation. My Mom was great about comforting me, but we both kind of agreed that it was bound to happen. Then, she said that after dinner she'd go to the dumpster and get me another cat. Enter Mitchell VIII.

Just as an end note, I am currently on Mitchell IX. He's outlasted every other Mitchell at 15 years old. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that he's an indoor cat and isn't exposed to car engines, wheels, stray dogs, alligators, owls, barn fires and natural disasters, although he does battle a wicked case of hairballs. He's still pretty active, but he is a gigantic prick. No one likes him but me. You know the saying "the good die young and pricks live forever?" Well that was pretty much meant for Dick Cheney and Mitchell. He's that evil. When he was a kitten, my arms were so scratched that I looked like a heroin addict. He's a jerk, but occasionally, I do love him. My husband says after he dies, no more 'Mitchell.'