A.'s Last Day Before Becoming a New Age Teetotaling Outdoorsy Vegan

12 Microbrews

11 Scoops of ice cream

10 Sausage links

9 Cheeseburgers

8 Chocolate cookies

7 Legs of lamb

6 Chicken breasts

5 Glasses of milk

4 Blocks of cheese

3 Apple pies

2 Bottles of wine

And 1 Stick of butter



Feeling under the weather, I drove to the library to pick up a documentary.  I came home with random selections from the DVD stacks.  I must have misunderstood the blurb on the cover of Touch the Sound*.  This was supposed to be about a deaf musician.  But there is nothing deaf about this woman who speaks English with no hint that she can not hear her own words, who doesn't wear aids in her ears, who plays music not just by herself but with other musicians.

How do you hear?
With my whole body.  How do you hear?
Well, with my ears.
So what is the difference?

We learn, from an early age, that there are five senses.  Is it in this formalization of how we perceive the world, that we limit our ability to perceive?  We think of deafness as silence, blindness as darkness.  But here is Evelyn Glennie, a so-called deaf woman to whom sound is life, unfettered by definitions of what it means to hear.

What is the opposite of sound?
Not silence.  Even in silence there is sound, though we may not be able to perceive it.
How so?
Sound is vibration.  Life is vibration.  Even a stone vibrates.
Is there an opposite of sound?
Death, perhaps, comes closest.

drawing with eyes closed while listening to Evelyn Glennie and Fred Frith's "A Little Prayer"

* Directed by Thomas Riedelsheimer whose other documentary Rivers and Tides is equally as stunning, about the work of artist Andy Goldsworthy.


Comment Ca Va?

This morning, Pauline calls on her cell phone from Carnot, Central African Republic.  Where have you been, she wants to know.  Have you been traveling?  I tell her, I've been to my mother-in-law's house.  Is it far?   Like so many things, when seen along side Pauline's perspective, I have no idea how to answer.  In C.A.R., a 90 mile journey could take all day or more.  Yes, it's far.  But we zip there in a smooth two hours, eating snacks and listening to music and surfing the internet, in a climate controlled vehicle that we are confident will not break down.  No, it's not too far.  Of course, I can't explain these details, just as I can't send photographs, because we are all so smiley and jokey and bright, everything around us so new, our houses so huge, our cars so abundant.  Even the glossy photo paper, creamy envelope and self-adhesive stamp embarrass me.

Pauline asks about my kids, my parents, my husband.  Everyone is fine, I tell her.  I do not say that my son has to get braces and that I've signed the girls up for gymnastics, that the kids are fighting over their new video game and that my husband has decided to become a vegan.  And her family? Her mother is doing better, recovering from a mysterious illness, but her knees are still bothering her.  Her kids, Pauline says, are all in school.  And Fosphen? I ask.  He was three when I arrived, five when I left.  He has gone to the capital Bangui for some reason I don't understand, and Pauline is not happy about that.  Her husband Morris is gone too, searching for diamonds. Difficult, I say.  Yes, she says.  It is very hard.  And especially now.  The work is not good.

And for the new year? I ask.  Will you have a party?  How can I know, she says.  The new year is not even here yet.  When it comes, if Morris has returned, if we find some money, we will have a party. And then the line goes dead before we have a chance to say good-bye.


Thank you M.T.* for D.E.I.** and S. of W.***/****

I don't know how to play piano, so I just try to let my hands move the way they would if I knew what I was doing.  I know what that looks like.  I watched my big brother practice piano every day of my childhood.  Just to give you an idea, he played George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue at the Road Show, the annual talent show at Central, our downtown high school in Omaha Nebraska, 50/50 black kids to white.  My brother was the nerdy pimply genius Jewish kid.  They gave him a standing ovation.  I'd never been so shocked in my life.

And once I had a dream, a very vivid dream, years and years ago, that I was looking down at my hands playing Rhapsody in Blue.  I was astonished at how it felt, just like dancing.

When I was a kid, when my brother wasn't practicing, I played my parents' records.  My favorite for dancing was Aaron Copeland's Appalachian Spring.  I was the choreographer and lead dancer.  Though I was the only one who could dance every part perfectly, I was patient with my imaginary troop, always willing to demonstrate what I expected.  In college I studied modern dance. My favorite class, along with composition, was improvisation.  In spring, we danced on the sloping front lawn, in winter, we rolled and clucked and jittered our way around the hardwood floors of the big studio on the top floor, radiators hissing.  Once, we spent the entire class crawling up and down the staircases of Lathrop Hall.*****

At my son's first piano lesson, the teacher told him to play the black keys, any ones, how ever he liked.  Something in me bloomed.  That night, I played the black keys for three hours, on the piano that had sat a year untouched in our house since the day I salvaged it from an evangelical church. It felt like dancing.  Eventually, I got brave, and now I play the white keys too.  I play enough that family members often ask me to stop.  At some point, I began to wonder, am I the only person who plays the piano without knowing how?  Or are there armies of us, all over the planet, tripping to the beat of the same fool.

It was not quick in coming.  I started playing flute in the fifth grade.  From the first note on, I learned that playing music means reading it off a staff.  Not playing what is on the staff is called a mistake.  Making a piece more interesting means playing it louder or quieter, as noted by the composer on the page.  Only now do I understand the feeling of constriction I experienced, grown from those first seeds of anxiety that I would not play it correctly.  I thought this feeling was inherent to playing music.  And it was that feeling that matured and flourished through progressively more difficult music until I was playing Hindemith my senior year.  By then, I had not played flute in front of anyone but my teacher for four years.  Nothing was ever good enough to share.  Some days, when I practiced, it was thrilling.  But most days it felt more like drudgery.  I knew it was strange, the way my flute playing was such an intensely private thing.  But I had no idea how to make it anything else.

Now I'm 40.  Suddenly, I know people who like to play music the way I like to play music, "play" being the operative word.  They don't play like me, nor do I play like them.  Which is the fun of it, disparate voices coming together as one.  This past Monday, I went to my first open mic, alone, and had seven new friends by the end of the night.  Yesterday, I got a package in the mail, two C.D.s from my favorite piano/cello player****** who I had never heard play piano, beyond a few scales, until today, listening as I write, something I almost never do.

A new friend at the open mic commented on how free I seem to be with my music.  Only after lots of practice, I said.  He was surprised.  Really? he asked.

How else?

*Matt Turner

** DadA eAr InK

***Shards of Wiggett

****The other night A. told me that he thought I did a nice job with the post about my blog stats.  I was flabbergasted.  Really, he assured me.  He liked the graph and the reference to fem bots and he especially liked the footnotes.

*****Before it was remodeled.

******Besides my brother, Arthur.


Have An Ouzo Solstice

“While experiencing happiness, we have difficulty in being conscious of it.  Only when the happiness is past and we look back on it do we suddenly realize – sometimes with astonishment – how happy we had been.  But on this Cretan coast I was experiencing happiness and knew I was happy.”

Zorba the Greek
Nikos Kazantzakis


Celsius? Give me a Break!

It is a tribute to our true American spirit and grit that we continue to doggedly refuse to give in to the logic of the metric system.  But the mathematics, some continue to argue.  And I ask, what is mathematics next to tradition?  We are a nation of principles.  No one is going to tell us how to measure.  We've been measuring things for a very long time, thank you very much, over two hundred years to be exact.  And we will not change for those Socialists out there trying to brainwash us into giving up what we have rightfully earned.  No.  That's not the way we do business.  We are proud to measure with the yard stick and the pound.  Because that's the way the Founding Fathers did it.  And if it was good enough for the crafters of our Blessed Constitution, well then, it's good enough for us.  Amen.

The Imperial system is arbitrary, the naysayers cry.  You're kidding me.  The distance light travels in a fraction of a second?  Who can measure that?  I mean, talk about arbitrary.  These so-called scientists think they can just come in and take over the world.  Well I'll tell you something.  We are too great of a nation to allow that to happen.  We will stand by our out-dated, nonsensical, irrational ways for as long as we please because we are Americans, through and through.  We will continue to measure in gallons, quarts, pints, fluid ounces, gills, hogsheads, perches, roods, acres, thoues, inches, yards, chains, furlongs, miles, leagues, fathoms, cables, nautical miles, links, rods, more chains, minims, fluid scruples, fluid drachms, degrees farenheit, grains, non-fluid drachms, ounces, pounds, stone, quarters, hundred weights, and tons because that's how we've always done it.  And if that ain't the best reason of all, then call me Queen of Sheba.  Americans, Stay true.  Stay strong.  Say no to metric.  



Why Not Christmas?

Why we did not celebrate Christmas growing up, I do not exactly know.  Yes, we are Jewish.  But Christmas, I've since learned, is not exclusively a Christian holiday.  My in-laws are not Christian and they celebrate Christmas and Easter.  Still.  Growing up Jewish in the 1970's in Omaha meant that Christmas morning was a very sad time for me, when we sat in our house eating fried matzo trying to pretend that the rest of the kids in the world were not having the most wonderful day of their lives, opening up presents from a fat man with a white beard and a red suit who drove a flying sleigh and lived at the North Pole with a bunch of elves.  Where was Jesus exactly?  Oh yeah, Santa brought him down the chimney in a crib.  Right?  That part of the story is still a little fuzzy.  Anyway.

Even though we never had a Christmas tree, it seems to me that we spent a good deal of time opining about them.  Real trees were good because they smelled good.  Fake trees were bad because they were fake.  Popcorn and cranberries were tasteful.  Silver store bought tinsel was not.  Colored lights were fine, as long as they weren't flashing.  White lights were best.  Trees left up too long into January were signs of deeper issues.

Of course, as all good Jewish parents do, my parents tried to make the best of Hanukkah.  It lasts 8 times as long as Christmas, they argued.  Yes, but the gifts and good cheer were much more than eight times as austere.  By the time I was in high school, I got it.  We celebrated our persecution by learning to be happy with the pencil, the two dollar bill, the dreidel, the deck of cards, the book about why we celebrate Hanukkah, the shirt, the pants, and the pair of socks.  My friends learned, in hushed whispers that we were Jewish and that Jewish kids didn't celebrate Christmas.  Why?  I didn't really know why.  But that was just the way it was.  Meredith must have known I was Jewish, but she was horrified when she found out that I had never had a Christmas tree.  I had horrified her before, by sprouting my first gray hair during choir, by not shaving my legs.  But the horror of not having a Christmas tree out horrored all the other horrors.

My mom has battled Christmas envy her whole life.  In elementary school, the teachers felt sorry for her and her brothers and the couple of other Jewish kids and let them decorate the school Christmas tree.  She still talks about how much she loved decorating that tree.  And Christmas carols? Don't get me started.  My mom loves Christmas carols, especially the ones written by Jews.  She made a compromise with her mom.  She could sing Christmas carols, as long as she didn't actually say the word Jesus, but just mouthed it.  Try it.  It's not easy, but my mom's great at it.

And then, in the middle of December one Saturday morning when I was in high school, the door bell rang.  I opened it to find a Christmas tree.  Meredith had insisted she spend her allowance on this present for me, her mother sheepishly explained to my mother.  My mom couldn't have been more excited.  And confused.  "Where are we going to put it?" she blurted.  "We can take it back, really," Meredith's mom insisted.  No, my mom could not let this, our first real Christmas tree, go.

We thanked them, hugs all around, and shut the door.  "Where are we going to put it?" my mom asked my dad.

"That's your problem," my dad said from behind the newspaper.  She wanted to put it in the living room.  But what would the grandparents say?  Not to mention the neighbors?  No.  If we were going to have a Christmas tree, the only possible place was in my room.  Then, at least, she could blame it on me.  Oh yeah, and we had to call it a Hanukkah bush.

We spent the weekend making ornaments out of dough - stars of David, yamakas, menorahs, symbols of Judaism I didn't understand any better than crosses and angels.  We strung popcorn and cranberries and realized why more people do not string popcorn and cranberries for their Christmas trees.  And every day I found my mom, sitting on my bed gazing at our Hanakkah bush.  "Doesn't it smell wonderful?" she asked.  I thought maybe there was a small chance that Santa would be tricked and come to our house that year.  But no, apparently Santa is more discerning than that.


Who Are You?

I must admit, I get a little obsessed with checking the stats.  On Blogger, the host of this blog, the most interesting stat to me is page hits per country on any given day, week, month.  I often tell A. about it, usually when we are in bed.  "Apparently, there are people checking out my blog in the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Romania."

A's eyes narrow.  "Spy bots," he says.


"Of course."

"I'm imagining some drunk ex-patriots, you know, friends of friends, looking for a little connection."

"Spy bots," he insists.

So I ask you, Dear Readers, is it true that you of regions far and wide are not real people with real opinions, real worries, real joys?  Are you merely spy bots prowling the internet for weak links such as myself?

Reported page views Dec. 8 - Dec. 15:

United States
United Kingdom

Does Russia have that many spy bots, probing the mutterings of a Mid-Western middle-aged American mom?  I thought the cold war was over?

Total page hits to date: 5,364*

Regardless of if you are human, canine, spy bot**, or fem bot***, thanks for visiting A Terminal Case of Whimsy.  I hope you don't regret it, as A. sometimes does.

*Including my own, which accounts for about half.

**I don't even know what this is.

***See "The Stepford Wives" (1975)


Happy Biffy's Birthday

It's Biffy's birthday today.  I know because my husband told me, not because I can remember such things.  Biffy has this weird talent for remembering people's birthdays.  Once she went around the table at a big dinner party and said everyone's birthday.  She didn't just rattle them off, but took a long time hawing around.  So it wasn't that impressive.  Still.  I don't even know her birthday even though it's today.  December someteenth.  The date has always been challenging for me.  Probably because it's always changing.

Good thing I bought Biffy that purse made by mentally handicap adults out of clothes the Goodwill couldn't sell.  I know it doesn't sound like anything very special.  But it is.  The strap is an old belt that you can adjust just like a belt around your waist.  So that's pretty cool.

Nothing can top Biffy's 30th, though, when we surprised her with gift cards to the grocery store because her life was on the brink of imploding, or rather had already imploded, and we thought gift cards to the grocery would be much more helpful than edible undies from Pure Pleasure, which is what we usually got her.  Oh boy, did she cry!

And even though I know that Biffy stopped reading the blog when I started posting "Sheila's Nose" ("Snoozer" I think was her comment*), I'm pretty sure she'll check it today because it's her birthday and she'll know there's a small chance my husband mentioned that fact since she called to remind us yesterday when I was at the YMCA, which he did, and an equally small chance that I'll mention her here, which I am.

I was going to post a birthday drawing but realized that I already posted the one birthday drawing I have to celebrate my own one month blogiversary, and since I'm feeling kind of lazy and have a few other things to do besides making birthday drawings, I'll just post this photo I took of my husband the other day for you-know-who because I know it will make Biffy laugh because she thinks he's a pretty funny guy.  And a good laugh is better than a socially responsible purse that hasn't even been mailed yet, any day.

Happy Birthday This!

*Biffy says that she can't possibly be interested in anything I post unless it is about her, which is why I wrote her into "Sheila's Nose", though she doesn't really believe I did, but thinks that's just a ploy to get her to read it which it might be, but isn't, depending on your perspective.  


Reading Material

"In the middle of (Dotty's) table was a tremendous lamp, with a painted china base and a pleated dark-red silk shade, held out at an extravagant angle, like a hoop skirt.

I described it to Hugo.  'That is a whorehouse lamp,' I said.  Afterwards I wanted to be congratulated on the accuracy of this description.  I told Hugo he ought to pay more attention to Dotty if he wanted to be a writer.  I told him about her husbands and her womb and her collection of souvenir spoons, and he said I was welcome to look at them all by myself.  He was writing a verse play."

Alice Munro


Dreams from Black Rock City

One evening, in the middle of the Black Rock Desert, two friends of mine and I climb a ladder to get a new perspective.  We meet a friendly couple sitting on a platform, swinging their feet over the edge.  I ask if they would like a dream.  The woman gladly accepts.  The man asks, "What's a dream?"

"That's up to you," I say and give him one.

"I don't get it," he says looking at his dream.  "Can I redeem this some place?"

"You tell me," I say.

"Don't worry," the woman tells me.  "He's an engineer.  I know just what I'm going to do with mine."

"An artist," the man scoffs.

We hear there is a rubber ducky, somewhere outside the city, big enough to house a jazz club.  Everyone advises we bike.  We stop to ask directions from two woman riding dragonfly bikes.  "Keep going," they say and let us take their picture.

The rubber ducky is a mirage.  He swims in a little silver pond.  We bike faster.  The rubber ducky is a chalk drawing against a white earth, a blue sky.  We pedal harder.  The rubber ducky is as big as a house, tied to the desert with thick cables. "Closed until dark," says the sign on the breast.  But the rubber ducky makes everyone joyous anyway.

Then we bike to the temple.  The temple is make of wood stencil discards from a dinosaur toy factory.  The man who built the temple is there talking about his temple.  We gather around pushing closer to him not wanting to miss a word.   I want to crawl inside his mind.  But many other people there want to crawl inside his mind ahead of me.  I give him a dream before I'm swept aside.  He slides it into his pocket without looking at it.

At night it gets cold.  I wear my velvet coat and carry my toy accordion.  Inside a fire breathing dragon train is a funk band.  We dance along side for a while.  When the pirate boat stops, we hop aboard and climb up to the deck.  I meet a pirate.  We exchange names.  I give him a dream.  He plays drums in the boat's salsa band.  We sail on the desert breeze under the arch of a dancing laser beam.

I want to be alone.  I climb down from the boat and wave goodbye to my pirate.  It is my favorite view of the city, alone in the dark, the line of lights and flames along the horizon, the wavy sounds of celebration.  I walk towards where I think my home might be.  A gigantic flower decorated with lights and music rolls up beside me, accompanied by the most beautiful song I've ever heard.  I spin and spin and spin.


A Present from my Son

In every moment, change.

In every change, acceptance.

In every acceptance, love.

In every love, beauty.


"Sheila's Nose." A Serial Cat Tail. Part 9. The Last.

And so he decided.
       The next morning, Mr. Elliot did not open his bookshop.  Instead, he donned his best suit, groomed his mustache, buffed his head, and combed his eyebrows.   He gargled, plucked, brushed, filed.  The cat needed nothing more than a change of nose.  He choose the cotton ball.

Mr. Elliot stood at Miss Abigail’s door with the cat in one hand and a bouquet of flowers in the other.  He rang the bell and then suffered a seizure of self-doubt, growing near ill imagining what Miss Abigail may think of a grown man's infatuation with a stuffed cat. 
Miss Abigail was not in the mood for guests.  Still, she tip-toed to the door and put her eye to the peek hole.  She gasped. Why, it was Mr. Elliot!  She couldn’t possibly open the door.  She was wearing a bathrobe and slippers and hadn’t washed her hair in who knows how long.  
“Miss Abigail?  I wish to introduce you to someone.”  She squinted at him through the peek hole.  Though he was wearing a rather dowdy suit, his face twitched charmingly.  

“But Mr. Elliot.  You are all alone.”
        Mr. Elliot tried to decide how to handle the situation, blinking so rapidly he couldn’t see a thing.  Did he really have any other choice, having come this far?  He held the little cat up to the peek hole. 
           He heard a loud thump from inside followed by a grave silence.
           "Miss Abigail?" he called.  Now he had done it, making such an abominable fool of himself that surely she would never speak to him again.  "I'll be going home now."  He put his ear to the door waiting for a protest.  "Sorry to have disturbed you, Miss Abigail.  I'll be sure not to come again."  Nothing. He stood before the shut door summing up his life.  Yes, he had raised hems and lowered hems.  He had fixed what was torn and altered what did not fit.  And certainly one could not deny that he had recommended a good deal of great reading to people in search of such things.  But it seemed the door to love always remained shut despite his best intentions. 

            Suddenly, a groan.
            "Miss Abigail?  Is everything alright?"  The good samaritan took over.  Mr. Elliot reached for the handle and opened the door.  There on her back, was Miss Abigail.  He bent towards her, "Miss Abigail.  Please.  Allow me to help you up."
            She opened her eyes.  Looking up at him, she felt the funk draining away.  "What a lovely little cat you have," she said.
            It took some time to get through all the apologies, but eventually, they were sitting together at the kitchen table drinking tea and eating stale cookies while Mr. Elliot explained how he had found the cat in the poetry section.
           “She has such an interesting nose,” Miss Abigail finally said. 

          It was then that Mr. Elliot took from his pocket a ring box.  Miss Abigail choked on her tea, the deep fear of commitment rising within her like a tide.  He held the box out to her, his mouth twitching so rapidly, she was afraid that if she didn’t take it, he might suffer permanent damage. 
             With the box in her hand and Mr. Elliot perched on the edge of his chair, she knew there was no escaping.  She would have to open the box eventually.  She lifted the lid.
              “Noses,” Mr. Elliot said with a fair amount of pride.  “For the cat.”
             With two fingers she plucked from the box a tiny mustache that resembled Mr. Elliot’s. 
“I call that one The Transgender.”

             Miss Abigail snapped it onto Sheila’s face.  “Do you mind if I put her in the curio cabinet?” Mr. Elliot agreed that was a delightful idea.  
             Miss Abigail and Mr. Elliot stood beaming at the cat, both vaguely aware how strange it was that a little stuffed cat with a crooked tail, mismatched eyes and a mustache could inspire such complex feelings.
         “Sheila," said Miss Abigail.  "She seems like a Sheila to me."  
Sheila was so happy to be back in the curio cabinet, looking out on the two people she loved most in the world.  She had them to thank for everything.  Had she not lost her nose, she would not now have six.  Had she not been thrown in the thrash she wouldn’t have a new eye, that, though it did not help her see clearer on the surface of things, allowed her to see the good in even the most unfortunate of circumstances.  She was even happy to see the black cat clock perched on the wall, its eyes still ticking back and forth, back and forth.

Thank you for reading.


"Sheila's Nose." A Serial Cat Tail. Part 8. 'Wouldn't A Cat Who Had Lost Her Nose Enjoy Having Several Options To Choose From?'

The bells on the bookshop door chimed.  It was the elegant woman returning with her daughter, having changed her mind, he imagined, about the Pynchon.  Mr. Elliot hid the cat back on the poetry shelf and hurried to the door, his left eye twitching. 
The woman, who Mr. Elliot found fascinatingly repelling, said “Now, ask the nice man and he will tell you.  Your cat is not here.”  
Mr. Elliot, sensing the depth of her anguish, said to the girl,  “I don’t know what you are talking about.  There couldn’t possibly be a cat here that belongs to you." And then, so it wouldn't appear that he was lying, added,  "The mere notion of it is ridiculous.”  
He couldn't help but stare at the little girl's nose adorned with a large red scab.  “You’re lying!” she whispered.  Mr. Elliot who was not a liar by nature was so ashamed that he opened his mouth to say, "You are right dear child!" but he got no further than "you" when his tongue tripped up.  Despite all the work he had done with the halitothic speech therapist, he still was stumped by certain "r's".  The girl and her mother stared at the bookshop owner as he struggled, his face flushing crimson.  "Thank you very much!" the elegant woman offered, "I just remembered that she dropped it on the sidewalk."  And even though the girl knew this too was a lie, she followed her mother  through the door without protest, noting that in some lies, there was kindness.   
With "are right dear child!" flying off his tongue like shrapnel, Mr. Elliot dove for the door and locked it.  He flipped the sign.  CLOSED.  He was not surprised to see that the stuffed cat was resting on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
“A fan of T.S. are you?” he asked, stroking down the fur on the top of her head. In this bewildered little creature was a determination that matched his own.  He was not ashamed that he had worked many years as a tailor to save enough money to finance his dream of owning a book store.  He still kept a workshop, upstairs, off the kitchen.

With his glasses perched upon his nose, Mr. Elliot rummaged through his old scrap box and found a piece of rabbit fur and a small length of wire, just enough to make a new tail, one a little crocked at the end seemed best.  In his button drawer, he found a gem stone that didn’t look half bad as an eye.  But what to do about the nose?  He held up trinkets and bits of fabrics and buttons.  How to choose just one?  
        Sheila wanted to tell her kind savior that it didn't matter at all which nose he chose, though  the white cotton ball was very handsome. After one has suffered as she, one appreciates any nose one gets. Sheila was grateful.
         Suddenly, Mr. Elliot was awash with inspiration. Why only one?  Wouldn’t a cat who had lost her nose enjoy having several options to choose from?
He stayed up most of the night, sewing a snap to the spot where a nose should go and the other half of six snaps to six new noses he selected from his drawer of miscellaneous curiosities.   He chose the most festive of the new noses, a tiny ball of sparkling purple tinsel to snap onto Sheila’s face.  He smoothed her fur with a tonic he had used to tame his own wild locks before he had lost them.  He cleared a place on his nightstand.  Then, feeling silly, but compelled, he kissed the little cat on the top of her head and wished her a good night.  He set her on the nightstand and turned her so that when he lay down, he could look into her eyes.  That night he dreamt of Miss Abigail.
When he awoke the first thing he saw was his new companion sitting in the morning sun.  How charming she was!  He wanted to set her in the bookshop window, but he could not risk the little girl demanding her back. 
Several times that day, he snuck away to check on the little cat who he had set on a doily in the kitchen nook.  Each time he was so thrilled to see her, he changed her nose, from button nose, to clown nose, to tiny silver fish nose.  “Yes, she does bring one a certain inexplicable joy,” he whispered to Miss Abigail.  Mr. Elliot stood straight and blinked, realizing that ever since he found the cat he had been carrying on one long conversation in his head with Miss Abigail.


"Sheila's Nose." A Serial Cat Tail. Part 7. 'She Couldn't Have Run Away Because She Is Not A Real Cat.'

The mother did something she abhorred in others.  She lost her composure in public. She  chased after her defiant daughter, spurred by a rage sprung in her own childhood and buried deeper each time it  threatened to emerge.  And now, of all days, it uncoiled.  It was not that she didn't once enjoy running, the former captain of the first girl's high school basketball team in the state, nor was it the heels, which she had been wearing so many years now, she could get around better with them than without.  No, it was the simple fact that her daughter was faster that goaded her.  She  lengthened her stride and was nearly within reach of the odious fur ball tucked under her daughter's arm, when the girl pulled ahead, rounding a corner.  Where had she been that she missed her daughter learning to run?  In France with Proust or Argentina with Borges? Is it possible that she used to sit and dream about how wonderful motherhood would be? And now she wanted nothing more than to grab that girl and shake her till she broke. No wonder she preferred books. In fiction she encountered her most honorable self.  But here on Main Street, she belched out ugly words.  Kicking her legs higher than they'd been in a very long while, she launched, snatching at what, she didn't exactly know.

Sheila heard a ripping and felt a coolish tickling on her back end.  The girl jolted and fell face first to the sidewalk.  She sat up, her mouth, a universe, strung with spittle, her nose smeared with blood.  It wasn't until she saw the tail her mother was holding, that the girl screamed.  Sheila remained stoic.  What more could one expect from the world?  Who had not suffered now and again, the vacuuming up of a nose, the loss of an eye, the removal of a tail?  Things could be worse. Sheila thought of Miss Abigail. At least she did not have the funk.
The girl's mother wanted to cry too.  But cry she would not.  There were too many things to get done that day and now they had to return home to clean up before proceeding to the bookshop.  "See what you've done?" she said, grabbing her daughter's arm and marching them back home.  She scolded, threatened, begged the entire way.  But the girl had never been so sure of anything in her life.  She would not let her mother steal her happiness. 
As soon as they got home, the mother insisted, if the girl had to be so stubborn, the least she could do was give the cat a bath.  Sheila, like real cats who purr and leap and meow, was not meant for baths and emerged clean, but looking disorganized and even more bewildered than before.

The girl’s mother tried one last time, demanding that her daughter leave that thing at home.  But the girl just glared, gripping Sheila even tighter.  "If that's the way you want to be, we will not go to the bookshop," the mother threatened, certain this tactic would work since going to the bookshop was what her daughter loved most.  "Good!" her daughter yelled.  "I hate going to the bookshop!"  The woman felt a small piece of her die.  In the end, she had no choice but to allow the child to embarrass her.  She hoped no one noticed.  First impressions are so vital to a person's reputation, and they had only just moved to town.
The bookshop owner was not nearly as friendly as he had been the previous week, and the woman was glad about that, thinking that if he were ill or distraught he would pay no heed to the child.  The elegant woman browsed.  The girl played with her new found friend, rubbing her scabbed nose against the smug where Sheila's nose used to be.  Sheila couldn't have been a happier nose-less, tail-less, one-eyed, waterlogged, stuffed cat. Sheila mustered all her remaining courage, to expose her joy to the girl, when a real cat crept around the book shelf.  The little girl dropped Sheila on the floor and ran after the cat.
The girl's mother took advantage of her daughter’s distraction to sweep Sheila up.  Making sure her daughter did not see, the woman shoved the fur ball on the top shelf in the poetry section where she was sure no one would find her any time soon. 
It wasn’t until they were half-way home that the little girl realized she had forgotten her cat.  The mother kept walking, suggesting that it had run away.  The little girl screamed, “She couldn't have run away because she is not a real cat!”  The mother turned and stared at her daughter in wonder.  She had no idea that her daughter could distinguish the real from the imagined.

Back at the shop, Mr. Elliot despaired.  He concluded that because of his obvious character flaws – his hopeless romanticism, his endless array of ticks and quirks, his weakness for knick-knacks – Miss Abigail was indifferent towards him and thus had decided never to return.  He took the little book of poetry he had selected for her and returned it to the shelf.  It was there that he saw the little cat, her single eye shining.  His heart skipped a beat sensing that Miss Abigail herself had shrunk and sprouted fur and lost a nose and an eye and grown two ears on the top of her head.  He reached and picked up the little cat, wondering how she had gotten there.  “What’s your name?” he asked.  And if the cat wouldn’t have been choked by his kindness and respect, she would have told him, Sheila. 


"Sheila's Nose" A Serial Cat Tail. Part 6. "You Don't Know Where It Has Been!"

The raccoon, making his nightly rounds usually wanted nothing to do with trash that was not edible, but there was something about the little bewildered cat staring up at him with one eye that struck a familiar chord deep in the raccoon’s psyche.  He was so taken by her that he did not even hunt through the trash for the tasty bits he could smell, though he did take the opportunity to gobble up the rotting onion.  Instead, he took Sheila’s crooked tail between his teeth, careful not to bite down too hard and crept along the alley. 
Sheila, though relieved to be in fresh air, rescued from the humiliation of the trash can, could not find the heart to embrace the idea of spending the rest of her life as the cat of a raccoon.  What about the other cat with the missing nose and eye?  This thought led to another more disturbing one.  Was it possible that she was that cat?  That would explain the coolish tickling and why she was having a difficult time seeing.  Drat that mouse!  He had not merely sniffed and licked but had also gnawed off one of her eyes, swallowed it, and disappeared!
You can imagine how Sheila felt upon making this astonishing discovery.

The raccoon, being a very organized sort of fellow, felt it necessary to first bring the cat back to his nest in the sewer before continuing on his nightly raid.  Just last week, he had made the unusual decision to drag a cardboard box back to his nest.  Normally, he did not like cluttering up his space with useless junk.  But he could not resist this particular box since it featured a picture of a very handsome three toed sloth.  The raccoon had always dreamed of vacationing to New Zealand to meet these distant relatives of his. 
Being absorbed in these thoughts, the raccoon was not paying attention in his usual alert way.  As he stepped into the street, a car screeched around the corner, nearly taking off the raccoon’s nose.  It gave the raccoon such a scare that he dropped his new treasure and scurried down the street, back arched, fur-raised, and disappeared into the sewer.  He was an unusually skittish raccoon, the determining factor as to why he had never been able to find a mate.  So despite his desire to have a little cat companion living in his cardboard box, he could not bring himself to leave his nest again that night.  
The next morning, an elegant looking woman, indeed the very one who Miss Abigail had seen the previous week discussing who knows what with Mr. Elliot, was out walking with her daughter.  The little girl, spotting something in the gutter, ran ahead despite her mother’s protestations.  What she found was not the real live bunny she had hoped for, but rather, a nose-less one-eyed bewildered stuffed cat with a crooked tail.  “Put that down right now!” her mother yelled.  “You don’t know where it has been!”

But the little girl had already discovered something in the little cat that was so familiar and comforting that she did not dare let her go, even if it meant suffering her mother’s wrath.  For you see, the little girl’s mother was a bibliophile and preferred to spend her time buried in the silence of thick books, leaving the girl hours upon hours to dream of a companion all her own.  

Her mother was more than repulsed by this trash her daughter held against her freshly laundered silk chemise.  Having been raised by unapologetic slobs, the woman had an extreme aversion to any disregard for personal hygiene and order. There was nothing more crucial than being freshly bathed, pressed, coiffed, and scented.
She demanded that the child drop the filthy thing that instant.  But the little girl, who was normally quite frightened of her stern mother, felt the rising of an unfamiliar sensation that stung her deep inside her nose bringing tears to her eyes.  "No!" she screamed and ran.
So there was poor Sheila, clutched so desperately by the girl, that if she still had both her eyes they would have crossed in pain.  Even the raccoon, as abject of a creature as he was, had, at the very least, been gentle with her.  


"Sheila's Nose" A Serial Cat Tail. Part 5. 'She Put On The Best Face She Could Without A Nose.'

That night when the cat woke to Miss Abigail lifting her from the curio cabinet, Sheila could not have been more elated.  “Oh!” she thought.  “How wonderful that Miss Abigail has overcome her disgust and can now see beyond my flaw.”  But Sheila’s delight quickly changed to bewilderment when Miss Abigail did not even pat her head or say sweet things.  She did not stop to place her in the poke-a-dot purse hanging from the doorknob, but rather, curiously, went outside and headed for the alley.  Sheila’s bewilderment turned to horror as Miss Abigail, without so much as an adieu, lifted the lid of the trash can, dropped Sheila in and turned out the lights with a crash of the metal lid. 

After her quaking abated, Sheila, always the eternal optimist, convinced herself that Miss Abigail, in a mad cleaning fit had merely mistaken her for a bundle of useless fluff.  She sat in the dark, staring up at the trash can lid, waiting patiently for Miss Abigail to realize her terrible mistake and come running to retrieve her.  Or maybe, Miss Abigail knew of some magic trick for producing cat noses, a trick which required the nose-less subject to spend the night in a trash can.  Or maybe, just maybe, it was possible that Miss Abigail blamed Sheila for the loss of her nose and this terrifying trip to the trash was just a temporary punishment she had devised.  Being in such a compromising predicament, Sheila of course could not differentiate between the logical and the absurd.  Every scenario ended with the joyous reunion they would have, Miss Abigail kissing her apologetically, Sheila forgiving her many times over, as Miss Abigail promised to never allow her to suffer like that again. 
So Sheila sat hour after hour in the cold dark trash.  And then came a rustling somewhere beneath her.  The rustling grew nearer and then stopped right beside Sheila.  But since it was dark Sheila could not see what the thing was even though it crawled up out of the debris and climbed upon her face, perched right where her nose had been.  Whatever it was, it sniffed Sheila.  She could only guess from the tickling of the little whiskers against her cheeks and ears, that the creature was a mouse.  As Sheila pondered this new development, she felt the little mouse licking her face.  It was a strange feeling indeed!  It licked and gnawed a bit and licked some more and gnawed some more.  For the first time, Sheila was happy that she no longer had a nose since a little mouse might have found it a treat for the taking.

And as suddenly as it had appeared, the little mouse sat up on its hind legs, swallowed loudly and dove back into the heap of trash.  How bizarre!  Sheila felt a coolish tickling on her eye, allergies, most likely, aroused by the proximity of the furry little creature. 
As the hours passed, Sheila pined for the curio cabinet.  She even missed that black cat clock which had caused her so much distress, its eyes moving back and forth, back and forth, always in search, never in find.
At some point in the middle of the night, Sheila was forced to acknowledge the naked truth that her hopes of being reunited with Miss Abigail were not the product of a clear mind, but one of a nose-less cat thrown shamelessly in the trash.  And so Sheila suffered, squished in the dark trash can between a rotting onion and an old shoe that had lost its mate.  More reason to be thankful for not having a nose.
Deep into the sleepless night, Sheila heard a new rustling and felt the trash can shake.  Oh joy!  How wrong she had been to believe that Miss Abigail would just drop her in the trash because of a missing nose!  Sheila put on the best face she could without a nose and sat, nearly quivering with excitement, looking forward to spending the rest of the night in the curio cabinet.  When the lid popped off the trash can and fell to the ground with a startling crash, Sheila readied herself for the apology and kisses to come.
“What a funny little cat you are, missing both a nose and an eye!” said a deep rough voice.  Sheila jumped, startled by the fact that the rough voice could not possibly belong to Miss Abigail.  But then the words settled in and Sheila was even more startled by the fact there must have been another nose-less cat sharing her same trash can, a poor little cat who was also missing an eye!
As the thing with the rough voice bent closer, Sheila could now see that she was correct.  It was not at all Miss Abigail, but rather, a menacing looking raccoon.