Saturday, April 28, 2007

prodigal cat

Took a couple of the chicks (now gawky, half-feathered/half-fuzzy teenagers) to son's school for show and tell yesterday. We finally had some beautiful weather, and even had to keep the windows open until well after dark last night to stay comfortable.

After we got home I brought all the chicks outside in the bigger wire cage to start acclimating them to the outdoors. I also did it so they don't get too used to the lap of luxury they've been experiencing as bathtub/house chickens. I tell ya, it's champagne wishes and caviar dreams for animals around here. Our Aussie sits next to the cage when we bring the chicks out like this, because she takes her guarding duties very seriously (as the cats will tell you). My daughter wanted to tell stories while we sat out there, so I told the story of the beautiful princess who had a cat named Angel, and it was a big hit. Then it was daughter's turn. "What story do you want to hear, Mom?"

"Hmm," I said. "How about The Very Tired Mama?"

Daughter thought about this for a minute. Then she said, "How about a story that doesn't have any scary parts?"

Anyway, I went out at around 10 pm last night (as I always do) to check on the horses and let Mr. Fatso gelding out of the corral where he eats his Jenny Craig rations while the older boys get the 2 flakes each/Equine Sr./corn oil feast. Life's not fair, I know, but if we didn't separate them, I have no doubt that I'd walk outside one day to see that Bearkhat had exploded. (I affectionately refer to him as a "Snausage" because he's the easiest keeper I've ever known. I'm convinced he could get fat on air alone.)

So, I'm out there and I hear a high-pitched meow. This is not unusual in the least, since Angel and Milo are outdoor kitties, and Angel frequently accompanies me for horse chores. As always, I say, "Hi, Angel." I hear the meow again, and look around for her gray stripes in the dark. Nothing. "Where are you?" I call out. Meow.

Now lets backtrack a bit to Christmastime 2005. A move to California was imminent. Arrangements had been made for the horses, and we were taking SheDog the Aussie with us. The only animal that didn't yet have accommodations waiting for him was Pepper Kitten, a half-feral black cat that I'd managed to remove from his entirely feral mama when he was about six or seven weeks old. I then tamed him, neutered him (well, I didn't neuter him - the vet did. I'm a fairly self-sufficient, handy gal, but there are limits), and generally transformed him into a pretty great (albeit still a tad wild) outdoor kitty. Now, for those of you who believe keeping a cat outdoors is tantamount to animal cruelty, I will tell you that I've owned outdoor cats all my life, and they've always been well-cared for, well-loved and extremely happy, spoiled rotten little beasties. Plus, my husband and I are allergic: He makes a run for the Albuterol inhaler when cats are inside, and my contact lenses start feeling like someone squirted Elmer's glue into my eyes.

So, when it came time to move, I was very torn about what to do with Pepper. I knew bringing him to California was out of the question: He'd lived his entire life at the end of a long dirt road, with prairie all around and no traffic. I knew he'd be flattened on the street in front of the CA house right away. I also had doubts about trying to re-home him. He knew his territory, and he owned it, and I could also imagine him running away from the new home and getting equally squashed. I knew he could probably fend for himself fairly well as the rural kitty he was, and I knew he occasionally visited neighbors, but still... Then my mother-in-law, who lives next door to us for part of the year, said she'd look out for him, which made me feel a bit better. So, we essentially did nothing with Pepper, and I agonized over this literally the whole time we were in CA.

The few times we returned to visit our place, our horses and our friends here in 2006 I looked for Pepper, and went out late at night to call for him (since that was traditionally when he liked to visit). Nothing. I had to believe he was either being shy or that he'd found a new home (probably with the Cat Lady, who lived right across the dirt road from us, and who has a local reputation for taking in cats that actually have homes already, keeping them inside and basically adopting him whether they need it or not. She even has a big yellow "Cat Crossing" road sign in front of her house. Clear enough picture?) My MIL had been putting out food, and she assured me that she'd seen him around, but I still worried. I take animal care very seriously, and not knowing how Pepper was doing was one of those things that I'd fret about in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep. I know the other animal people out there get this.

So, in the four-plus months that we've been back in AZ, I've actively searched for PK, but to no avail. I've been putting food out in the horse trailer, and have called for him at night. I've also had to find a way to come to peace with the fact that I had very possibly made the wrong decision to leave him here when we moved, and that has not been easy. But you know what's coming, don't you?

I couldn't see Angel's stripes in the dark, but I did see something black and hairy. I had to stand there for a minute and let my brain catch up to what I was seeing, but there he was.

I said, "Pepper, is that you?" and he answered in the affirmative, winding around my legs like he'd always done, and drooling uncontrollably as soon as I started petting him. I couldn't believe it. Since both kids were already asleep, I ran to get the camera so I'd have proof when I told them this morning that Pepper was just fine. Then I went to pick him up and discovered that the whole year-plus I have spent worrying about him has been for naught. Because Pepper has apparently done more than just eke out a life of bare-bones survival here on the prairie. He apparently has a sugar mama (or several sugar mamas). I have included another photo for illustration purposes. Everything outside of the California and Texas-shaped areas roughly represents Pepper's mass as it appeared when we left for California.

He used to be a sleek, trim, efficient barn-type kitty, and now he to put this delicately...

A lard ass.

Yes, our poor, deprived half-feral rescue has somehow managed to amass two entire states' worth of tonnage since being left behind.

And I feel like I've had at least that much weight lifted from my heart.

Monday, April 23, 2007

story time for adults

This is how I described the Northern Arizona Book Festival to my son this past weekend, when he asked where I was going.

Billy Collins was there, and stole the show. After his (far too brief - I could have listened to him read for hours) reading, Lemony Snicket took the stage. Or rather, some guy whose job it was to explain Mr. Snicket's unfortunate demise (via a too-hideous-for-words creature at a picnic) took the stage. That guy was quite funny. I suspect he may have actually been Mr. Snicket in disguise, but one never knows. The whole thing was very mysterious and unfortunate.

I didn't get to devote as much volunteer time to the festival as I would have liked, though I did spend several hours (some of it with the husband's help) updating their address list. Those school board secretary skills have to come in handy somewhere.

In other news, we've got a whole lotta truck love going on at Brackett Villa. Herewith:

oh yeah.

that's what I'm talkin' about

uh huh.

come on, baby - bring it.

Let me hear ya TESTIFY!

I loved my trusty Chevy S-10, which has carried me and the children around faithfully for the past couple of years (and that's saying a lot, coming from a Ford woman).
But Mama's big truckin' again, and that means life is GOOD.


April 23.

Snow coming down outside the window.

The book is beta-reader ready, more or less.

It's been a long, hard year.

I'm kinda happy and extremely tired.

Strangely, this describes my current mood pretty well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

hot chicks in a bathtub

If the title of this post doesn't bring more male readers to this blog, then I give up.

I hope you all had a happy Easter, as we did here at the Brackett household.

Still working feverishly on the book.

Remind me to tell you how I now know that these newest additions to our menagerie have multiple lives, much like cats. (Hint: the story involves an exploding heat lamp.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"I like your buttons."

Recommendation 1: Go see Blades of Glory, especially if you've gotten into the unfortunate habit of taking yourself too seriously lately.

Recommendation 2: Do not eat a large meal of Indian food beforehand.

I had a great birthday yesterday. It started with a call from Mom, a gift of flowers from a friend, and hugs and drawings from the kids. I did some spring cleaning, worked on the manuscript draft, which is coming along nicely (I met my goal of having something halfway-decent hammered out by the time another year turned over on the ol' odometer), and then got to enjoy some cake and ice cream before heading out to one of my favorite Flagstaff restaurants of all time - Delhi Palace - with my husband. The meal was awesome - tandoori-style meats, curry spicy enough to get the nostril hairs tingling, and, of course, one of my favorite carb vices: Naan (fried potato-ey, bread-y pancake-y things).

After gorging ourselves thusly, we rushed over to the theater, arriving just in time to see some of the upcoming summer movie trailers. It's going to be a good film season, methinks, considering the triple whammy of Shrek 3, Pirates 3 and Spider Man 3, all of which look like they're going to be excellent. So, then our movie began. Now, I will admit up front that I am a huge John Heder fan. I'm one of those people who "got" Napoleon Dynamite (and, thanks to my sister-in-law, I even have a "liger" sticker on my truck to prove it). I also enjoy Will Ferrell tremendously. The two of them together are almost too much for my brain and stomach to handle, and I mean that in a good way. Honestly, I don't think I've laughed so hard since watching Sinbad's show at Morehouse College called Brain Damaged, which used to air on the comedy channels all the time in the late 90's (my husband and I have tried to find a copy of it for years, to no avail). Seriously, Blades of Glory actually caused laughter-related pain, and afterward we both felt totally depleted, which is what I consider to be a quality movie-going experience.

So, now it's full-on spring, I'm officially not getting any younger, and I want to go outside and play with the kids and dog and cats and horsies and chickens...but first I need to get this book beta reader-ready. I could actually use one more really good snowstorm at this point as an excuse to chain myself to the computer for a couple more days. Barring that, I'll just have to draw the blinds, shutting out all that gorgeous sunshine for a little while longer.