We’re gonna get kittens, soon. Our only cats have been ferals, ever since Conrad discovered in 1968 that he had a pretty severe cat allergy. We’d treated ourselves to a pair of (unrelated) Siamese kittens once we’d settled into our house in Columbia, SC. We both love cats. Conrad was pleased that one or the other of them would hop onto his lap as he sat at the electric typewriter (remember those things?), which he did early and often.
When he began erupting in sneeze fits, he somehow thought it might be a reaction to the typewriter ribbon, which actually did outgas a pretty strong smell. The big Olympia desk machine had an internal fan, which blew warm air upward into CB’s face, caressing the cat en route. Maybe the cat wasn’t so much expressing affection as it was indulging in the ancient cat-art of parking where it’s extra-warm.
When the uncomfortable round of allergy scratch-tests came up with the verdict, we had to give away our quirky friends and all their offspring. We’d initially intended to breed them, hence getting unrelated kittens, but the sellers hadn’t been accurate in assigning gender. We didn’t have a male and a female. We had two females. Siamese cats are pretty vocally active, and when in heat they’re astonishing. These two ladies appeared to come in heat every five minutes.
We sent out a “seeking Siamese tom” message and connected with a dude who was very proud of the male prowess of his cat, a big critter who was lumpy and muscle-bound, more like a Rocky-style bulldog than a slinky Siamese, but he did have balls. The cat, I mean.
However, when we got him home and he met the ladies, he hid, first under the bed, then in the closet. Only one of our cats was actually in heat, but as soon as the tom arrived, the other one upped the ante. He must have come out of the closet, because both cats came up preggers.
The vet warned us that we were facing big trouble, that we had to keep the moms sequestered far away from each other when the time came in order to avoid attacks on rival kittens. We did our best, and made them separate birthing-boxes. They delivered within twelve hours of each other, and all went well.
The cats hadn’t read whatever the vet had read, and they were having none of it. They picked up the kittens and lugged them all into one box, and took turns with nursing duty, giving each other time off. We enjoyed the kittens a lot, until the allergy verdict arrived, but at least we had them for a while.
Now Conrad’s allergy appears to have gone south. We tour our theatrical offerings and stay in lots of houses with cats, so it has become evident that age does have some rewards. CB’s the one who popped The Question: “Let’s get a cat.” Knowing that we’ll always have some away time, I suggested getting two littermates. Voila.
But hey, it’s Mother’s Day, and I have very fond memories of those long-ago Siamese ladies who knew how to do it, far better than the vet.
There are stages in a creative work just as there are stages in pregnancy. At one point you’re flying high, at another you’re carting a sack of potatoes. Bio-pics of artists rarely show the process of revision, much less the revisions after revision. For good reason, perhaps: it’s hard for an actor to conjure up a crazed, lighting-struck frown of genius over moving a comma or finding a different way to say “suddenly.”
Certainly if you’re a sculptor in marble, you can’t decide, post-chisel, that Laocoon needs an extra snake around his shoulder or Aphrodite requires fuller endowments. Language is more forgiving, except for the writer who’s still using vellum. Paper is cheap, and electrons more so.
I generally enjoy rewrites, though I hate making decisions: I always know I can rewrite the rewrite. Still, an extended span in the “rewrite” mind can be a challenge. For me, indeed, it’s a different mind, more akin to the difference between making love and raising the resultant offspring.
Right now, with Elizabeth’s input, I’m getting three of the little brats off to school. We’ve just gotten editorial notes from the publisher of our forthcoming novel GALAHAD’S FOOL, so it’s back to changing diapers on the five-year-old—the book has been that long in making the rounds. Meantime, we’re wrangling through the second drafts of CHEMO and Elizabeth’s solo show SURVIVAL. They’re at different stages, but it’s all that slow uphill climb. There’s often nice scenery on the way, but none of that first wild plunge of the roller coaster.
I’ve never had problems with writer’s block, but I can see one way it can develop. After a long span of picking lint off each of 80,000 words, it may not be so easy to get back to the terror/thrill of facing the blank page or screen. Add to that: I’m 75, hence more selective in the stories I want to tell. At 40, no problem pursuing an affair with any story impulse that gives you the eye. Now, the choice carries more weight. I don’t want to be nine months pregnant and bring forth a gopher.
But what’s next? Several ideas are starting to snuffle up to the top. Meantime, I’m very much looking forward to facing that blank screen again. At least till I actually face it.