of mice and men
“Max just did a somersault. He walked over there in the corner, flipped over, and then walked back out.”
“I really wonder how these guys stay in shape.”
“They don’t eat a lot.”
“Well, they don’t do anything.”
When you’re home for Christmas on Whidbey Island and there’s two feet of melting, icy, slushy snow on the ground, and you live at the end of my driveway you don’t do anything either except spend hours watching your animals in amusement as they go about their lives. Really, they do the most hilarious little things, and it’s all so adorable because of how fluffy and serious they are. Our cats Max and Tippy hate each other. Tippy mostly hates Max, as the oppressed loathes the oppressor. Max is large and gorgeously striped with a big white fur muff around his neck that he grows out in the winter. Tippy is small and so light you would think her bones were hollow. She is pitch black and shiny with little white feet that have six toes each, hence her name. I don’t want to give the impression that Tippy is without fault herself as she seems to display the hallmarks of some deep-rooted psychological issues most notably a wide array of phobias including, but not limited to things that produce sounds, things that do not produce sounds, empty rooms, not empty rooms, still air, tile, and most especially my mom’s computer.
They spend the morning stalking each other around the living room, but it’s a slow process as they have to stop and nap on every piece of furniture, so that, by 8 in the morning the tension has built to a fever pitch and Tippy is swatting her tail on the couch and making the little squeaks that she emits like a beacon, and Max is making himself comfortable next to her on the arm of the sofa and they are both pretending that they are asleep and that they don’t notice each other at all until Max whacks Tippy in the face and they’re off, chasing each other angrily around the living room and it’s all cat scratch fever until my mom literally has to break them apart like toddlers and they go to their separate ends of the room and promptly fall back to sleep for several hours. Then Max does a somersault in the corner and I realize that it is now 8 in the evening, and I have been contemplating the inner lives of these cats for 12 hours.
Then there’s our dog Bella, the Australian Shepherd, who if you bring her into Langley will elicit the most adoration from passerby of any dog/baby I have ever seen. Frequently, grown men will look down at her and say simply, “Aussie,” in a voice so filled with reverence and communion, that it seems they are paying tribute to dogs and men everywhere. My dad certainly pays tribute to Bella when he remarks to me that of both his daughters she is clearly the superior, and that I should, “Be nice to my little sister.” Indeed.