Sunday, March 27, 2005

COLUMN: Chelsea

The other night I watched "Steal This Movie," the biography of counter-culture activist Abbie Hoffman. While a bit romanticized, the movie got me thinking. Abbie Hoffman's prime motivation was to make our country a better place -- to expand people's minds and fulfill the notion that one voice, if raised loudly enough, CAN make a difference. It was an inspiring movie, and got me thinking about my goals as a weekly columnist.

I should be providing you guys with weekly philosophical bones to chew on -- journalism with enough depth and meaning to make us all sit back, question ourselves and our pre-conceptions of life, politics, and the human way. I should be routinely bringing meaning and message to the masses.

Trouble is, it turns out that I don't have any kind of depth or meaning to any iota of my brain. So instead I'm going to babble about my cat.

Let's get one thing clear first. Yes, I'm a single guy and I have a cat. And no, I'm not gay. Forgive me for perpetuating that horrible stereotype there, but I know that somewhere in the Great Book of All Things Not Macho, cat owning has its own chapter. "Hey, baby, wanna come over and see my precious wittle kitty" has NEVER been a successful way to pick up girls. This I realize, and it's something I've come to terms with long ago. The reason why this stereotype doesn't apply to me? I don't own a cat. My cat owns me.

Rewind to ten years ago. It's the week before Christmas, and there's a -20 wind chill outside. I'd put it off for as long as possible, and I needed to go on a grocery run. Braving the cold and my freezing car, I shiver all the way to Hy-Vee. I shut off the car and open the door... and out of nowhere, this tiny ball of frozen fur jumps into my car, onto my lap, curls up in a ball, and starts purring.

That's how I found Chelsea 10 years ago. At that time, she could almost fit in the palm of my hand. Now she's a giant lump of lard that only awakens from her daily coma to go scratch up anything I remotely enjoy owning. She's a maladjusted walking attitude problem that doesn't play well with strangers, whines as bad as any child I've ever met, hacks up more hairballs than she has hair, and holds a black belt in claw combat. But she IS my precious wittle kitty, and I couldn't imagine the past 10 years without her. Until last Friday.

No, no, my cat didn't die... but I did fantasize briefly about killing her.

It was 10 minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off... and I was suddenly awake. More to the point, I was awake and in pain. Judging by the weight, my first guess was that a rather obese cat had just pounced directly onto my stomach and was presently sitting on my chest. Gathering the strength to wake up and push the cat off of me, I raise my head and crack my eyes open... in just enough time to see my cat go "Ptooey!" and SPIT OUT A DEAD MOUSE ONTO MY CHEST.

We've already established that I'm not gay, right? Good... keep that in mind while I tell you all that the next thing I did was SCREAM. Like a wee little girl. And leapt out of bed, shaking in a full-on cootie attack. Meanwhile my cat looks up at me like, "What?" Meanwhile the mouse looks up at me like, "Hi, I'm dead."

As creepy as it was, though, I'm somewhat impressed by my cat. I didn't think my cat was in any condition to catch anything other than a cold. (One of my closest friends, in fact, is convinced that the mouse led a long and healthy life in my messy apartment, contentedly died of old age, and my lazy ol' cat just happened upon the body.) However, since that fateful morning, my cat is now in full-on mouse patrol. Every time I see her, she's darting around, smelling, probing, hunting... it's like my own miniature Per Mar guard.

So I suppose the bad news is that my apartment complex apparantly has mice (yuck.) The good news is that, while I'm sitting here typing this, my best friend is pacing around my feet, ensuring that no rodent disturb me in mid-column. Either that or she's just hungry. Lessee... sigh. Yep, it's food time. Gotta go, my owner needs me.

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