by VINCENT CARDEGIN
My wife got cats the other day, two kittens. I’m pissed. Now I can’t kick dog toys out of my way without first looking down to make sure the thing isn’t alive. I sometimes made a game of it, soccering the toys around furniture over to the wicker basket, the “goal,” under the low, narrow table located just inside the living room. The toys are too small for me to trip over, but I don’t like stepping on them, especially the ones that squeak. Now it’s no longer a fun nuisance.
I don’t know what part of “I no longer want animals in the house,” she doesn’t understand, but clearly, she suffers from selective comprehension when I tell her things. The only way I’ll play with her cats is if I get a laser pointer and can spin them in circles and then turn it off at the base of the couch, where they will exercise for some time- reaching under there trying to grab the red dot with their clawing paws before they fall asleep. Then I can be free of them for at least two hours. And since my wife likes to wear short pants at home, I’m going to run that light up her bare legs, just to express my displeasure in a nonverbal way. (No, no, not really. Well, maybe. Yeah I’m gonna.)
Watching the kittens from the corners of my eyes while trying to enjoy reruns of Bones and Numb3rs and Becker, I grow melancholy from the knowledge that my wife will text me to pick up dog food and now cat food and cat litter in the future when I’m out and about. Such creatures should be hunting in packs or alone on savannas and always pooping outside (but not in my yard). And that reminds me of my years at Exwork and the ridiculous notion and insistence that we burden our shelf space with food for non-pets. I have no doubt that the functionaries at home office who sit at a computer with printouts and sticky notes everywhere are perpetually confused about floorplans and especially product compatibility, for the joint description of those departments is Lawn and Garden, not Lawn and Garden and Wild Animals. Over the years, the bags of seed for wild birds (sky rats) and squirrels (tree rats) got bigger and bigger, until the manufacturers were required to print “Team Lift” on them. Unknown to those suppliers, there were fewer and fewer workers to do so at our store. I eventually developed a technique for rolling a two-cubic bag, about eighty-pounds, from the shipping pallet to a display pallet without busting it. It’s tricky.
As far as I’m concerned, if you feed it, it’s your pet. Doesn’t matter if a sky rat won’t visit you on your windowsill or sit on your finger, or if a tree rat won’t snuggle on your lap where you can stroke its back; if they return for the food you’re supplying, you are responsible. And I argued many times with management that those bags of corn and seed and the bricks of fatty suet should be over in the Pets department, along with food for wheel rats (gerbils and such) perch rats (parakeets and such) and water rats (fish). To any other arrangement, I say balderdash. I especially hated trying to display hummingbird feeders. They’re top-heavy and don’t sit well on wire shelves, and you should never whistle while stocking them for your airy tune will knock them over every time. And feeders for birds that don’t hum are just as difficult. The gazebos are six-sided and so can’t sit close together, and you absolutely cannot stack them.
Last year at Old House and now at New House, I’ve encountered an invasion of lizards. My Exwork friend, Senor Cargador, keeps calling them Geckos, but they’re not. They’re just tiny life forms from the long-gone DNA of dinosaurs, but have for millennia pestered we evolving big-brains in our many versions of caves. I don’t know what the lizards are eating—certainly not love bugs or fire ants or the moth caterpillars that keep munching my wife’s tomato plants—but they are everywhere outside. I’m always surprised by the sudden motion of them running and leaping away when I exit my home. I can’t figure out the yard-ecology in this residential neighborhood, what eats what, so I’m reluctant to get rid of them; maybe they’re why I have so few bugs in my grass and shrubs (except those giant grasshoppers that seem unafraid of humans) and none inside. But the year before last and all the years before, I seldom saw a lizard, and now they are ubiquitous. I don’t know what the black garden snakes my wife is always panicking about are eating, but apparently, it’s not those little reptiles. All I know for sure is that I don’t personally feed the lizards, so they are not my pets.