Conniption Fit

Ashley Cooper, rescued from certain doom by being removed from Charleston several months before the hurricane came ashore, may not be 100% dawg.  She exhibits behaviors normally more attributable to pigs; mountain goats, bears, raccoons, weasels, an array of rodents (flying and gnawing), and of course, monkeys.

After stopping up every hole under the fence a rat could get through, we stood guard never leaving her unattended for more than three to five minutes at a time.  It is natural to take a break now and then: unnatural to avoid it.  Being an acute opportunist, Ashley always sees these brief breaks as providing adequate escape time.

One moment she would be content to lay in the back yard, and the next would find her a block away, and lost.  When you find her, she’s always glad to see you, and acts as if getting out of the fence was an accident; some mystical thing done to her, and not by her: that she is victim of some supernatural practical joke.

She will look at you as if to say the fence moved, leaving her outside instead of inside as the Good lord may well have intended.  All the while, her demeanor suggests this was all without any action or intent on her part.  The dawg is an incredible liar!

One recent afternoon found me checking the entire fence line at ground level for trap doors and secret tunnels.  A neighbor, curious of my bobbing up and down by the fence, came over to investigate.  when I stated the nature of my quest, a smile came over him.  He offered that Ashley Cooper doesn’t dig out as much as she climbs over: he’s seen her do it.  Says she creeps up to the fence like a Ninja; runs up the chain-link like a chimpanzee, and bounds to freedom like a flying squirrel with kangaroo legs.

He also offered that once she is outside captivity, she looks around as if a little confused at first, then wanders off casually as you might expect a cow grazing on open range to do if left unattended.  Says she takes on an air of being incognito, and if she had sunglasses, she’d put ’em on.

This has happened frequently, and sooner or later we always find her again. When we do, she in veritably will look up as if to say:

“Oh, am I out again?  My, my!  How could this have happened!”

Then, we take her back home.  Once there, we re-introduce her to the other dawg, Cosmo Topper, who always treats each reappearance as a first-time visit.  He finds it necessary to re-smell everything.  While doing so, he must hear a tune in his head because he always seems to want to dance.  If Ashley’s most recent escape lasted ten minutes or ten hours, it makes no difference to Topper.  He is male, and therefore cannot tell time.

He greets her anew as if they just met, and she acts towards him as if she’d known him all her life (from an appropriate social distance), and shows the suitable Christian apathy.  She is proper in that respect.  Ashley lets on that she is without knowledge of his desires and motives and so extends to him a rather middle-class indifference.  This puts a strain on Topper’s ability to keep his cool, not that he ever had any overabundance of it .

A recent veterinary exam (a method of reducing discretionary spendable income) showed that her pregnancy was false.  It was as false as her salad-bar religion which projects the image of endorsing some polite moderation while secretly dreaming of bellying up to a trough.

Mealtime for the dawgs is a show.  Topper lived four years without competition at supper except for a small calico cat with brain damage.  By habit, he ate at his own leisurely pace better described  as dining rather than just eating.  I believe he’d use a napkin if we made one available.

Not her.  Ashley grew up the smallest of five large (but conservatively fed) beasts.  The other four had papers: they had position and seniority.  Supper to her was (and is) the ultimate survival challenge.  Most of her first year was spent scrounging for every little scrap available (when there was any), and see’s meal time as such to this day.

She is not a mean dawg.  In fact, she is very gentle around people.  But only a fool with significant, well established and documented signs of complete idiocy would dare put his (or her) hand near Ashley’s bowl while she was at it.  Well, that goes for everyone except my youngest son, Mason.  She shows great affection for him and would never intentionally hurt him.  I suspect that even in the throws of a nightmare, if she even dreamed of biting that boy, she’d volunteer to have her teeth pulled the very next day.

Best I can figure, they hit a note of confederacy over their common interests about eating.  It’s not that they like the same stuff, but that they both have a complete lack of discretion about it.  Even so, they do not share the same ferocious appetite.  Ashley could eat herself into a bloated and flatulent stupor if left with an unguarded sack of feed in less time than the average station break.  Mason, on the other hand, can fuss for hours over three Lima beans and a teaspoon of rice if chores are waiting.

Maybe I’ve misjudged her intent: maybe it isn’t love at all.  Maybe it is that Mason just doesn’t smell like food to her which could be because of his diet: we are what we eat, you know.  Mason’s diet is…unorthodox.  I’ve seen him put strawberries on a glump of guacamole and act as if everybody ate like that.  He likes fresh fruit and he likes garlic, so why separate ’em?

Cutting with a knife and fork is a chore for that boy.  To get leverage, his elbows gyrate and become lethal.  If there is a glass of milk on the table, his elbows will find it and quickly lay it down.

My middle son, Nathan has some fairly normal eating habits whenever he takes a notion to use them.  In the way of manners: if he ever had any he still has them because they haven’t been worn down by excessive use, or wear and tear.

Nathan sometimes makes up his own names for food items, so we are never really sure what he’s asking for.  If he was turned loose in a wilderness, he’d find stuff to eat, and survive.  Just don’t ask him what it was that he ate.  You might not want to know; he might not want to tell you, and since he makes up his own words on occasion, you might not know what he was talking about, anyway.

Now if David, the eldest, were to develop a taste and liking for Gravy Train (claims it is served in his school lunchroom), then Ashley would again have meal time competition.  Unlike Cosmo Topper, who chews his food to a paste before swallowing, David swallows (gulps) his food whole.  He protects and conserves his teeth using them only for cosmetic reasons: his teeth are put to work only when building smiles, principally used to charm the ladies (even his mother can be disarmed by that smile).  So, David never uses his teeth to aid in the digestive process.

In time, science may bare out my suspicion that a digestive system in a teenage boy is poorly developed and not much of a system at all.  Their stomachs and their brains take in all kinds of things which they consume but do not digest.

Teenage girls are quite different as they don’t actually eat food.  They just stir in it with their fingers, taking in some nutrition and calories by osmosis, while dreaming about shopping malls and M-TV.

As I’d mentioned in a previous letter, Ashley Cooper was diagnosed with heart worms: a nasty condition that affects dawgs but not politicians.  You’d have to have a heart in order to be susceptible to ailments of the heart, wouldn’t you agree?  The treatments for the dawg are involved, lengthy and expensive.  Politicians are also sometimes involved with lengthy and expensive projects, but it doesn’t have anything to do with having a heart.

By prescription, she is given enough drugs to kill her, then made to be still and do nothing–kinda like a senator.  In this lethargic state, she is to show no signs of illness, else we have to rush her back to the veterinarian and pay again for services that by right of custom and decency would be extended to us by pirates!  It seems cruel and unusual, but the constitution has little to say about dawgs, though it should.

At this writing, she is in the middle of her treatments.  We are to keep her calm and quiet.  Excitement could cause her to have a heart attack and die.  No sport or exercise is allowed for a month.  Fragile as a cake in the oven, the least burst of energy could do her in.

Well, she is going into heat.  Perhaps it could be a false heat: after all, she did have a false pregnancy awhile back.  Cosmo Topper thinks it’s the real thing…an answer to his prayers.  He is a religious dawg, and intends to obey the laws of creation as much as he can.  If any deception is afoot about this heat thing, Topper isn’t aware of it.  Our back yard is becoming a place of interest, and I figure it to be written up in travel brochures.

On evenings when us grown-ups are home, an effort will be made to keep the dawgs apart for awhile.  Afternoons will be different.  Nathan and Mason, with enough curiosity between them to kill a thousand cats,  get home from school every day for a significant period of time before so much as a hint of supervision shows up.

In such an environment, there are experiments to be carried out by inquisitive young scientists.  There are firecrackers to be tested, and ten thousand variations on the theme:

“Wonder what will happen if…?”

Since they’ve both read recently about Ben Franklin, Huckleberry Finn, and Thomas Edison, You can expect some snooping and questioning to be in progress.  My sons, in their imaginations, will work to blend those images of Franklin, Finn and Edison together along with a fair dose of Tarzan, the Muppets, and all those wonderful Saturday morning cartoons.  Imagine the literary character of Dr. Victor Frankenstein with the inhibitions of Daffy Duck.  It comes out a bit like Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Heckle.

David gets home a little bit later,  but there is still time for him to add to the panorama.  By the time Brenda makes the scene, she is likely to witness something that might look like Curly, Larry and Moe chasing a run-away mule in a hail storm.  This is how we are keeping Ashley Cooper calm.

At night, that delicate dawg is taken into our room for peace and quiet.  Does she sleep?  No.  She pops up and down; in and out like a river otter making sure that neither of us: none of us, in fact, get any sleep.  There are side-effects to such behavior, and they show up mainly in Brenda.

Brenda does not do well when deprived of sleep.  There are circles under her eyes.  Brenda used to tell me “good morning”.  Now it is a snarl.  And that snarl is equally intended for me and the dawgs.  She’s even been a little short with the cat a few times, which is not like her to be less than kind to the mentally handicapped.  Since I don’t sleep much anyway, I’ve had a slight advantage here, and I will not be forgiven for having it.

To Brenda, sleep is a sacrament most Holy to be observed, undisturbed nightly for not less than eight consecutive hours.  Now, she usually gets less than three and a half, and never more than five.  With all she does and has to do every day (which would strain sanity for three average people), there is no room for an ounce of additional burden, chore or responsibility.  Her plate is full…overflowing, in fact.

She has brought this to my attention, and I feel helpless to amend the situation short of drastic measures.  All resources are stretched to the point of maximum allowable tightness.  If we were in a higher tax bracket, I’m sure we could afford her a proper nervous breakdown.  But as things are, and with the holidays just around the corner, it looks like she’ll have to settle for a regular, old fashioned working class conniption fit.

Not a hissy fit, mind you, which are bad enough in themselves.  Hissy fits spew forth volcanic wailing & tears followed by throwing things usually small and rather inexpensive, whereas a conniption can cause internal organs to be re-arranged, and cause nearby wildlife to screech in horror begging for a quick and merciful death.  Hissy fits can be nasty, but a full blown conniption fit is a tsunami of an emotional meltdown.  You don’t want to get in the way of one.  A psychiatrist can’t stop one, so they are cheaper than a nervous breakdown, but often more destructive.  Few people have ever witnessed a full blown conniption fit and lived.  Some think they have, but it’s more likely that what they actually saw was just a hissy fit.

While in military service, I’d taken an oath to defend this country from all enemies foreign and domestic, so I had a little meeting with my sons.  I pointed out how tired their mother was, and how dangerous a thing like that could be.  I suggested we all work to be better  managers of the daily routine and to take a proper sense of responsibility.  We all agreed to be more proper managers, and to be more reasonable.

Now, a reasonable and proper manager of an over crowded zoo would put a halt to acquiring more animals.  That would make sense.  But sometimes things that might make sense when viewed objectively are not readily seen where emotions are concerned.

Nathan wanted his very own personal pet.  He does not understand the practicalities involved in such an achievement.  So after studying on the matter for awhile, I bought him a Guinea pig for his birthday during a moment of intellectual, emotional and parental weakness.

It was cute enough as Guinea pigs go, but Brenda was not too pleased about this.  Penny Lane (the cat) was more than displeased; she was livid!  Our cat is reporting us to her union: claiming more work with no increased compensation.  If the cat also has a conniption fit, no one will notice because she always acts like she’s having one, anyway.

The costs of maintaining such a zoo exceeds net income and is a challenge to our debt ceiling (which has leaks in it).  The other night, things were relatively calm…relative to chaos, I suppose.  The children had gone to bed, so Brenda and I were picking fleas and having a chat about, among other things, our place in the bigger picture of the American dream.

The picture seemed out of focus.  Then, we discussed our son, David, who is now old enough to begin learning to drive our car.  Of course we spoke of safety and adequate instruction time, but the ever-present issue in our minds was the economic impact of such a thing.  Now I go to the window almost expecting to see lawyers and insurance agents perched in the trees around my house like buzzards.  The ensuing paralysis of an uplifted attitude takes a toll.  For example, the most productive thing I did today was send you this letter.

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