LUCKY GARVIN: One Wintry Morning [from some years back]

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Lucky Garvin

Beyond doubt this has been a strange, an unpredictable season. ‘Tis the first day of Spring, and we’ve three inches of snow on the ground. As if to underscore this peculiarity, though it snows heavily outside, yet there is melt off from the eaves and the trees. It’s as if Winter is reminding Spring that he pays the calendar no heed; that he can come back whenever he wishes.

But Spring knows better; she sees the battle as nearly won. Yet, taken another way, it’s as if Winter is setting a farewell kiss on her cheek until they meet again. In my own thinking, Winter has over-stayed its lease, and has become more a squatter than a season.

The melt-off during the snowfall has allowed our driveway to stay clear, so I run the dogs in our daily ritual. But not poor Jax, who does so wish to run with his pack. Alas, he cannot, as he is being treated for an infected joint, and is healing, although with an infuriating indolence. I must not let him run on that leg for now. But my boy will run once again; may that day be soon in coming.

But after the run, as right now, I take some extra time, sit with him and pet him as a reminder he is still loved, that he need not feel hurt by being left behind this morning; this extra time more for me than for him, to be sure.

Then Sabrina comes walking through the living room, her nose set in a wrinkle, her head searching here and there. She stops. “I smell…”

“Cat urine,” I finish for her. [I’ve seen that wrinkle before, at least once a week, for many years.] There is a numerical conundrum here: we’ve got six cats, and ten litter boxes scattered throughout the house. How can so few fill so many so often? [Someone is multi-tasking!]

It is to my advantage that I do not possess a keen olfactory sense. If an irascible skunk came near me and sprayed, I’d be none the wiser for the event, and I’m sure the little fellow would be frustrated knowing his exertions have gone for naught. My Sabrina, on the other hand, can smell a day-old sock at two hundred yards, so it always falls to her to decide when we need to clean cat boxes. This is a job which would make Hercules cower, sending him sobbing into a corner.

The cat boxes are placed strategically on the three floors of our home; this done so as to not force the cats to over-exert at relieving themselves. Thus, each of these smelly containers [Sabrina assures me they are indeed malodorous], must be taken to the basement, emptied, washed, dis-infected, refilled and replaced.

To be fair, Sabrina does her fair share of this chore. She stands beside the next dirty container, and points it out to me. I lift and haul. She still there when I get back, and points to the place I am to place the refreshed bin.  You can’t hire this type of help.

Once downstairs, I am no longer strong enough to empty all the kitty-litter into one trashcan, heave it onto the truck and take it down to the trash pick-up site at the end of the driveway.

It seems to me, as the years have gathered, the kitty litter has grown heavier. I know large muscles make for light work, but I no longer have large, or especially powerful muscles; although I can look down the years and see a young man of substantial girth and measurement. He is me, back then. He twaddles his fingers at me as if saying good-bye, and leaves me to deal with the cat litter. Peasant!

If you get roped into the task of emptying dirty cat boxes, be aware of this: always, always leave one full, cleansed litter box behind as you deal with all the other containers. It seems that a home without boxes – however momentary – exerts a mass-feline diuretic effect. Just a word to the wise.

For some reason, understood only by the irrational, ‘leaving one behind’ reminds me of the derivation of our phrase ‘nest egg.’ On the western plains, farmers and ranchers owned chickens; but they were not kept in coops. Rather, they were allowed to create their own nests; it was up to the farmers to find and remember the location of these nestings. The owners would go out each morning, and gather the eggs; ‘range eggs.’

They learned an important lesson very quickly: if you removed all of the eggs, the chicken would abandon that nest, go build another, then the farmer would have to spend precious time searching it out the new nesting site. But, if you left one egg behind – the nest egg – the chicken would not move location but tend the remaining egg and lay more. It must be recalled that the motivation for a bird laying eggs is not breakfast, but babies.

So, as leaving an egg behind makes sense, so it is with litter boxes. [You might want to write that one down.]

So finally the chore is done, but Sabrina’s nose is yet wrinkled. I smell nothing. She finally zeroes in on me and says, “Shower.” I do, being the good [read ‘obedient’] husband that I am, I come back into the kitchen, the wrinkle is gone, and she says, “That’s better.”

I have no idea what she means, but I’m glad her nose is now smooth.

Lucky Garvin