Daniel got a job cat-sitting for somebody, and Jesus God, don't these people check references? We're talking about Daniel here, who eight years ago killed his last pets in cold blood. Granted, they were goldfish, but still.
"Did you tell them you ruthlessly murdered your own pets?" I asked.
"That was an accident," Daniel insisted.
"How do you 'accidentally' grind up your goldfish in the garbage disposal?" I asked.
And don't even get me started about Mitch's obese cat Jenny. When Daniel and Mitch first made plans to move in together, Daniel kept suggesting that Jenny could live just fine 15 miles away in a monthly storage compartment in Doraville. "Just leave an open bag of food on the floor and she'll be OK," he said. Seriously, I am newly amazed every day at Mitch's patience.
But since then, Daniel has turned all cat-crazy and now he's madly in love with Jenny. He even sends out mass e-mails at regular intervals called "Jenny's Quote of the Week," accompanied by JPEGs of Jenny lounging in the sea of her own feline blubber, like a furry Buddah dispensing pearls of wisdom. "If only man can but love one another, the world will be at peace," Jenny will say, or something of similar depth and insight. Grant cannot wait to get Jenny's quotes, he'll walk around all morning afterward, talking in Jenny speak. "If only man can but wipe his ass, the world will be less shitty," or something of similar depth and insight.
"Leave Jenny alone, you crusty old claw hammer," I'll say to him. "Man needs to but love each other, for fuck's sake!" I'll laugh.
Because you have to laugh. In the ocean of crap that comes at you every day through e-mail and other avenues, the occasional little pedantic acumen coming from a cat can't be that bad. We're all stuck here in the same flaming ball of bitterness the world has become, we're all inundated to the point of paralysis by a daily tsunami of over-information, any little missive that isn't hate-filled or downright heartbreaking is a gem, I figure, and it should be treasured.
"If Hollis can but get laid," Grant will pontificate grandly, "the world would be at peace."
The other day at the Local, where Grant bartends, a customer complained to Grant about "Jenny's Quotes." Evidently, he'd somehow gotten on Daniel's mailing list and was now the unwilling recipient of Jenny's wisdom. The conversation matriculated and pretty soon most of the bar was talking in Jenny speak.
"If only man can but get a goddamn beer, the world wouldn't have to die of thirst right here in front of the bartender."
"If only man can but shut the fuck up, the bartender wouldn't have to throw the world out on its ass."
Pretty soon everybody was celebrating another day of relative comfort, eased into the mind-set by a rotund cat and her quote of the week. The whole thing reminded me of a bike race I rode once when I was in my early 20s. The course was 75 miles over Mexican terrain from Tecate to Endenada, with a nine-mile mountain smack in the middle. Everybody warned me about the incline, and I have to admit I was in over my head. The trick, I was told, was not to get off your bike. "Whatever you do," all my sage bike-rider friends told me, "don't get off and walk. You lose all your momentum. Stay on your bike no matter how slow you have to pedal."
It's ironic that, by race day, all these same bike-rider friends flaked for various reasons and I ended up doing the race alone, and when I hit that incline, believe me, it was every molecule as miserable as they told me it would be. I was about to get off my bike to walk -- because tons of others were doing it and I sincerely believed my tongue was about to get caught in my spokes -- when I heard another rider behind me say, "No, you don't."
"Huh?" I grunted, hot and wretched.
"Stay on or you'll never make it," he said. "So where are you from? I'm from El Centro ... right around the corner here, there'll be a support station, you can stop there ... I graduated from San Diego State, and you? ... Oops, it must be the next corner, oh well, keep pedaling ... So tell me about yourself, been riding long? ... My mistake, it must be the next corner. I swear you can stop there ... ."
And on he went, this irritating voice that seemed as endless as the hill I was climbing until, before I knew it, I was at the top and the struggle was over. And that's how I feel about Jenny's quotes. Times are tough, we're on a hill, and we keep turning corners only to see there's more of a hill. But one day -- I swear -- one day we'll turn a corner to see the hill has crested. That's why Jenny's quotes are important. They're not an irksome interruption. They're not! They're little rubies and pearls, distracting us from our own misery so we can make it to the next corner. If only these people could grasp that. If only they could give Jenny a little appreciation. If only man can but stay on the bike, the world will be at peace.
Hollis Gillespie is the author of Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories and Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."
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