My favorite author and dearly beloved wife of 46 years announced yesterday, “I finished the book,” I knew several things. One, she is still nowhere near her deadline; Jane is a twit who used to do her homework on Friday afternoon. Two, she is entering the Draft Phase (it could be called Rewrite Time) during which she will do four (or more) complete rewrites of said book. And three, I’m going to see a lot more of her for a while.
Five years ago we retired to a three bedroom, two bath apartment, and you would think we would see a lot of each other. But we communicate largely through email and intercom from my study to hers because this is really a one bedroom, two study, two bath apartment. In Draft Phase, however, Jane will use the Editing Chair, and it is in the living room so I will have to actually see her physical presence from time to time.
The Editing Chair. Jane has lower back problems (Duh! She’s a writer!) But she is also horribly cheap, after years of her pain I convinced her that a good chair, although expensive, would be worth it. And we bought a Scandinavian objet d’art that is the most comfortable thing ever sat upon and has table attached which holds the draft copy at a perfect height. With its ottoman and its kitty furniture and red pen table next to it, this whole configuration occupies most of one end of our living room.
Her Cheapness also allowed me to buy her a laser printer a few years ago because it prints so quickly, but I know she still uses the ink-jet printer because she believes it is cheaper. And she will run a complete draft of the book, three-hole punch it, and place it in a binder. The electric hole puncher keeps me out of the loop at this point. This used to be my odious duty because Jane insists on reusing her paper for different drafts and it was really really hard to keep the drafts straight.
So picture the great author: in her nightie, feet up on the ottoman, back comfortable in her big chair, cat on its stand providing a Muse, binder on the table, red pen in hand—she’s editing up a storm as long as she doesn’t have to go potty. It’s nearly impossible to get out of that chair!
A bunch of things I’ve learned about life from our pets
2. From Goldie, my cockatiel, very crabby after laying fourteen eggs in a week: Sometimes being a female sucks.
4. From my peach-faced lovebirds Bone Crusher and Scarface: Separate cages are often better for a relationship.
5. From Scooter the Wonder Cat: When you’re really good looking, you can do anything you want.
6. From Dream, the black cocker: When someone is crying, climb into her lap and lick her face.
8. From Bridgette, our Irish setter: If you can reach it, you can eat it. (I’ve since had to unlearn this.)
My big, handsome, fuzzy boy cat Scooter is not happy with me. He’s had a bad stomach this morning so I hid his food. He’s sure that it he meows and prances ahead of me to the food place in my study, I’ll feed him because, after all, that’s what I’m for. That’s what I do—whatever Mr. Scooter wants.
As a writer, I know too well about problems with cause and effect. A writer has to use very careful motivation. If a cat is sick and wants food but the owner gives him none, there is conflict. If a man is sick and the heroine gives him ice chips instead of the steak he wants, there is conflict. If a villain wants whatever the heroine has and she refuses to give it to him, conflict.
In the very first book I attempted, I loved my characters so much that I didn’t want to make them unhappy. Hence, no conflict. The book was short and dull. A writer lives on cause and effect which leads to conflict. We may not like it in our “real” lives, but we love to put our characters through agony, to give them every conceivable—and inconceivable—hardship and twist we can. We torture our characters to make the book interesting, to draw the reader in because a book without conflict is a short book.
And it’s so much fun to make or characters suffer! Writers have great power over life and death and happiness—at least in our books.
Excuse me. Scooter wants my attention again. He meows and I leap to my feet: cause and effect. I’ll pet him but he’s not getting food: conflict.
Oh, and about that “teaching a cat patience”? Can’t be done.
On Sunday, I posted on Facebook about finding cat vomit under a piece of newspaper and asked, “What’s worse.” Turns out there are a LOT of animal-related poop and vomit stories out there and my friends shared many. On the Facebook post, I added a picture of our big, handsome boy cat, Scooter (on the left) because he’s just to darned cute.
But I may have blamed the wrong cat.
Yesterday, I tossed the clean laundry on the sofa and folded mos of it. I left George’s T-shirts on the back of the sofa for him to fold. That is also the favorite napping place of Maggie, the fat little girl cat. Sadly, Maggie (to the right) is a one-person feline. She adores me but isn’t as fond of George. Sometimes when she’s sitting next to me on the love seat, he’ll tickle her feet. She really hates that. She threatened vengence–but who knew?
This morning, George went to pick up and fold the shirts and discovered–well, if you had to guess, based on my previous Facebook post, what did he discover? Yes, cat vomit. It had to be from Maggie because that’s her place. And that makes me wonder who left the other offering.
Please forgive me with my constant harping on this subject. I hope this is the end of it. If George will leave Maggie’s feet alone, I think this will solve the problem.
But probably not.
It was a Scottie but I know nothing more about this dog. I was very young at the time. I have wondered, once I was old enough to understand, how my older brother and sister might have reacted to trading in a pet for a little sister. I never asked.
After that, our family had few pets and none with fur. My sister had a turtle named Tillie Mae Turtle and a parakeet named Budgie. Neither were very cuddly and both died young.
It wasn’t until both my brother and sister had headed off to college that I got a cat. It seems there existed a correlation between number of people in the house and having a pet. With that cat, Hercules, I realized an important concept: kids need pets.
In spite of fond memories to the contrary, childhood isn’t all running in the sunshine and going on family picnics. There are some rough moments, some difficult adjustments which a child can’t or doesn’t want to share with parents or siblings or even friends. But a pet, you can tell everything to a pet. When a classmate says something hateful, a kid can cry into the fur. When a kid is constantly chosen last for every team, a dog will lick the tears away. When a child is sad, a pet listens and loves.
Oh, I know a pet means more work for parents, but I believe strongly that cat I got in middle school helped me get through high school. I still remember his lying on my chest and purring when I needed a friend. And I know allergies and living situations may make that impossible, but, if at all possible, I believe children need pets to love and to love them.
What do you think?