Friday, January 14, 2011

Cats and Dogs Don't Fight by Rick Hartwell

Cats and Dogs Don't Fight
by Rick Hartwell

I'm sitting here absentmindedly feeding Cheeze-Its to Christopher, the grey-and-white patriarch of the cats who own the house. He is of disputed lineage. He is so very large. His stomach sags with age and inactivity. His sister, Nicole, never eats the Cheeze-Its. She's very skittish and one of the family myths has it that she was brain-damaged by a severe fever when she was just a kitten. Her head is too small for her body and she appears to be a cross between a matron and a midget.

Christopher has taught Gabriel, the kitten, to also eat the crackers, but unlike Chris, Gabriel has no manners and leaves the marmalade crumbs strewn across the dun carpet. They look like orange ants on parade. My daughter's dog begs for some with his demeanor; his brown eyes seem to plead for his fair share. Harold, the dog, has no manners and his appetite insures that the crumbs are sucked off the desert floor and the carpet is left pristine. He's not one to leave kitten scraps as evidence of my bad habits.

The kitten attacks him again, bellying up across the veldt of the kitchen's green linoleum. He makes a final lunge for the dog, eager to pick a fight to insure the domination of six cats over one pug dog. Harold endures this obscene display of milk teeth and kitten-hood yet again. He's well aware at which end of the hierarchy he lives.

The shrill scream of brakes outside, unheard by the dog's ancient ears, provides relief as the kitten shies away from Harold, distracted by the piercing cry.

Rick Hartwell is a retired middle school teacher who lives in Moreno Valley, California, with his wife of almost thirty-five years (poor soul, her, not him), their disabled daughter, one of their sons and his ex-wife (?) and two children, Rick and Sally’s grandchildren, and ten cats! Yes, ten. Don’t ask.


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