Fire Cat Ramble

backlit cat

I love backlit anything

Once I found a dog that had been burned. I hope it was already dead when the deed occurred. There’s little to say about the dog except that most of its hair was singed off, its belly was swollen, and I’ve never forgotten. This was in Blacksburg, Virginia, in an isolated industrial wasteland by the railroad tracks, back when steam locomotives still pulled trains and engineers leaned out of the window and waved to kids like me. Once in a while they even blew the whistle when they saw us. Now that was a thrill. The dog not so much, just enthrallingly bad. Sorry.

I have no idea why this came to mind. The backlit cat being on fire is kind of a stretch, but be gentle. These are very weird times.

My Time With Fang

snow scene

Not a hamster but our Pontiac Vibe three days ago

“Ouch! He bit me!” I thought hamsters were supposed to be cuddly little beasts, but this one was out for blood. I was only ten or eleven at the time, which didn’t help. This was a long, long time ago and I was on my own, a nerdy Air Force brat in Germany. Elvis had just been drafted. NATO was ready to nuke the Russians at the Fulda Gap, and you could still buy a DeSoto in the States.

The family lived in a very nice third-floor apartment in a former Luftwaffe officers family housing area at Rhein-Main Air Force Base outside of Frankfurt. The reason I say I was on my own is because I mostly was. I hardly remember my mother at all from those days, and my father was often gone. (My duty as an Air Force kid was to understand the way things were and take it.) Somehow I was allowed to have a pet. That’s the really strange part. I have no recollection of buying or being gifted with a hamster, neither can I imagine where on earth he came from or why I wanted one. Boys my age were into snakes and dogs, neither of which were options. Maybe I thought he’d come with me in my pocket to play pranks in school.

I’m pretty sure I named him “Fang” after a song by Nervous Norvus. This was intended to be humorous and was, especially since no one dared to tame him or knew how. Nowadays you can Google “how to pick up a hamster” and find out you have to lift him up from below so he knows you’re not a predator. Apparently you also have to sing.

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Why Trash a Perfectly Good Photo?

cat in window

Calle the Wonder Cat outside the window, waiting in the sun

[The last two versions of this post have not withstood my judgment. Die, content, die! I will blather for a bit and then move on. – JHF]

Right now the wind is roaring, temperature mid-thirties. Every now and then something mysterious falls or blows over with a clunk. The ragged plastic tarp stretched over my wood pile is probably in the next county. It’s almost eleven o’clock with a dirty half moon sinking low outside.

There could be heavy snow tomorrow night. I certainly hope not. You wouldn’t believe how destroyed the muddy road is now. Once the snow melts, we’ll have to bring in supplies by helicopter. I wish the wind would die down. This doesn’t bode well, does it? If we could score a house in town, I mean like close in, I’d be rooting for the storm, though. Give me a good calamity any time.

[comments closed]

Screaming and Crying

tire tracks in snow

You’d think the thing would go but you would be mistaken

“I fucked up! I can’t stand it! I fucked up!” she yelled, sobbing and staggering through the snow. Yesterday was her turn, the day before was mine. At least she’d actually tried to do something, namely pull out of the driveway into the frozen bog we call a road. Right away she gave it too much gas and had the car nearly perpendicular—before I could stop her, she tried again and slid off into the deep stuff in the bushes. I could see her crying before she opened the door. “I thought I was supposed to gun it,” she gasped between sobs.

“Well, no, not exactly,” I replied. “It all depends…”

She was not the first. The day before, I’d broken down before I even went outside to shovel, yelling and cursing and crying that I couldn’t take it any more. “Jesus Christ, last winter broke me, and goddammit we’re still here!” I didn’t want to pull on my boots or leave the house. For sure I didn’t want to chop ice off the windshield or dig a path out to the unplowed road, but what were we to do? She treated me with kindness and only yelled a little (“I don’t want you to be this way!”), although I must have scared her at least as badly as I scared myself. Thank God there’s not a pistol in the house (I’ll never have one) and the gorge bridge is too far away. Grown man crying in the snow. I wonder what the juncos thought.

All she’d tried to do this time was make it into town and run some errands. The car was less than twenty feet from the road. There was hardly any snow at all where we’d been trying to get out, but it was packed and turned to ice from near-zero overnight cold. The tires simply weren’t up to it with a few degrees of slope to overcome. After telling her a dozen times it wasn’t her fault and dear God was I so sorry, she went back into the house and I took over. Wood ashes, dirt, pine needles, old rags, dig-dig-dig and try some more. Eventually I got the car a few feet farther up the drive, but that was it.

Before I gave up again myself to go call AAA, I saw that maybe I could pull forward just a tad, turn hard right, and get the poor car back into its parking spot. That worked, and I was right back where she’d started, only now I saw the left rear tire was flat! Of course it was, and my own fault. There must have been a nail down in the ashes that I’d spread, a remnant of the awful winter last year when I’d broken up some pallets that I’d stolen from a neighbor because the wood guy kept postponing our delivery.

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Truer Words

old truck in Taos, NM

The metaphors write themselves

“We have to find a house!” she said. “If we don’t move, we’re going to die…” That’s the stage we’re at now, very handy for focusing the mind. I knew precisely what she meant. The meanness and tension alone would do the trick, accumulated hits that break you just for being here at all.

Take a look at my truck. A hydraulic line ruptured while it was just sitting there, apparently. As soon as I backed it out the other day, I had no pedal pressure. Getting the F-150 turned around 100 yards down the twisty narrow road was interesting but I did, and where you see it is where it stays until I give the thing away. We’ve been a lot of places, that truck and I, but this is where the story ends, down a muddy old road with a dark ancient vibe. Shamans’ curses and bulldozed sacred spots. Subliminal sadness. Suffering without cause. A trick, a metaphor that binds you to a fate, or perhaps the ghosts are trapped and want the company.

This is the strangest Christmas. Send me wings or gasoline, and pumpkin pie.

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