Clarence the Kitten
Saturday, October 18 2003
Gretchen and I had decided to adopt the fawn-colored kitten she'd suggested adopting from the Ulster County SPCA. So I went out this afternoon in the truck to get various supplies, including kitten food, a litter box from Petsmart, and some unrelated hardware from Lowes. I discovered in the worst way possible that the anti-theft detectors near the doors at Lowes actually work for some items, particularly expensive drill bits. Happily, though, nobody appears to be stationed at these doors to respond should the alarms go off.
When I got to the SPCA, all the employees there were very empathetic. Having just lost the abuse case against Jody, the crazy woman who had kept Mavis the Elderly Cat locked in a closet, that was the buzz of the day. They warned me that Jody had started dropping in on the various people fostering her animals, Ulster County sheriff at her side, and demanding the animals back. Somehow she'd managed to retain a lawyer, and he was driving her around from place to place, since Jody has no car. Before I left with Clarence, the SPCA people gave me a lawyer's number in case Gretchen and I wanted to join a legal action to reopen the animal abuse case. It seemed pretty hopeless to me.
Back home I set up little Clarence the Kitten in the upstairs bathroom and then introduced him to Sally and Eleanor (who had been riding with him in the truck and sniffing him through the holes in his cardboard kitten carrying case). Eleanor, as I expected, became a little too excited by her new "little brother." Interestingly, though, she managed to tone down her usual over-the-top craziness, which often causes her to run full-tilt throughout the house barking at Mavis (and narrowly avoiding her cantankerous old-cat rage).
As for Sally, she was unusually calm and mature in the presence of the new kitten, standing or sitting over him and pantomiming threats at Eleanor whenever she pressed forward too aggressively. Something about Clarence seemed to bring out Sally's maternal instincts, which I'd never seen on display before. For a time the only thing she wanted to do was lie quietly next to him while he purred loudly.
It was kind of cold in the upstairs bathroom, so I went out into the yard to find a rock that I could heat up in the woodstove. The plan was to run a raging fire, put a rock in the fire until it was hot, wrap the rock in a towel and then give it to the kitten to cuddle with. But the plan didn't come off as smoothly as I thought. First I had to remove several pounds of ashes from the woodstove (that's a huge volume) and then I had to find a suitable rock. When I picked one up from the strip of woods out front, I saw it had the writhing remains of a salamander's tail stuck to it. I've picked up thousands of rocks in my life, but this was the first time I know of that I injured a salamander in the process. It made me feel terrible. Hopefully he'll grow a new one. (I never did actually get around to presenting the rock to Clarence; besides, it seemed cursed.)
At 7:00pm I met Gretchen at the Nibble Nook in Stone Ridge after she arrived in Rosendale from New York City by bus. We were meeting there because tonight we had an obligation to attend a lecture/slideshow by one of our mutual clients to benefit the Stone Ridge library. Fortunately (given what we heard later) the Nibble Nook was closing early tonight, so we went directly to the Stone Ridge Community Center for the lecture.
It cost us $15 each at the door, but the library folks also provided wine and finger foods along with the entertainment. Whoever had organized the refreshments must have been some sort of unreformed WASP, because the finger food was almost incidental to the wine; for example, there were crackers but no cheese. There was dip, but it was crab dip. That sort of thing.
The lecture, which was about various expeditions taken by the lecturer throughout the world (mostly in kayaks), was interesting in parts, though it probably could have been a little shorter than it was. Then again, my attention span is nowhere near what it used to be.
Later a subset of us, all friends and family of the speaker, got together for drinks and light food at the Inn at Stone Ridge, which has a relatively fancy bar, mostly patronized by Stone Ridge's many quasi-celebrities and social elites. Gretchen and I got there before the others with our client's teenage daughter, who always seems to want to leave places early. At the time she was telling us about her many allergies to animals. After she said she was allergic to cats, dogs, and horses, I asked if perhaps she was allergic to oxen, and she didn't know what I meant. "You know, plural for ox." I said. I guess that subject must have dropped off the curricula since I was in school, because she still seemed puzzled, saying "What are you talking about?" in that voice that popular teenage girls reserve for when they're talking to losers. But she was outnumbered, because now Gretchen was asking if she was allergic to hyenas. "I don't think I'm allergic to hyenas," I volunteered helpfully, explaining, "They came right through our camp in South Africa and I never started sneezing!" Why were we being this way? Well, for my part, I usually get annoyed when people start talking about their animal allergies. I know there are many exceptions to this hypothesis, but I have a suspicion that a lot of people who say they have animal allergies aren't really allergic much or at all and just use a claim of "allergies" as an excuse for why they don't like animals. I myself am somewhat allergic to cats - some more than others, and it's something my mother even took me to the doctor about. (Supposedly when he told her to get rid of her then-cat Coleche, she said she'd sooner get rid of her kid.) But with exposure to most cats, these allergies eventually disappear or dwindle to a mild irritation.
Our table was served by an older white man who had the dignified elegance of an English butler. It's been a long time since I saw someone so old and so white working as a waiter.
I ordered the "string fries" and they were some sort of batter-fried potato - delicious once I added salt (but tasteless otherwise).
Most of the men who showed up wanted to watch the baseball being played on a television, but to me the game was (as I said at the time) "just a bunch of guys standing around with numbers on their shirts." Ever since the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox were eliminated from the playoffs, Gretchen (who had mustered an impressive-if-fleeting pro-underdog interest) has been disgusted by the whole ritual.
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