About a year ago, I’m washing breakfast dishes, and I hear my wife at the doorway to the kitchen say, “We want to adopt another cat.” Drying my hands and turning, I see my wife and (then) 13-year-old son standing side-by-side awaiting the inevitable confrontation.
“No. You guys have two cats. We can’t afford another. Absolutely no more cats. Period. The end. I’ll not allow us to become that ‘crazy cat family down the block.’ Hon, we’ve discussed this. No, and that’s my final answer,” I say.
Attempting to avoid the inevitable pleading, I try to push past them into the dining room so I can proceed to the basement to cower in a dark corner. I don’t want to deal with this. I just wanna finish my chores and watch footbal. But they stand their ground and I’m forced to back into the kitchen and deal with the request.
“Sweetie,” the wife begins, “If Kyle and I volunteer 3 hours at the SPCA this morning, they’ll allow us to pick out and adopt a cat… for free.” “Abso-tute-ly no. You’re not going to change my mind on this. I don't care if they're PAYING you to take them, you're not getting another cat,” I put my foot down. Chiming in all cherubic-like, my son joins the fray: “Why not, Dad?” So, it’s two on one is it? Mom taking the lead, son taking the wingman position, eh? That’s how you’re going to play your hand? OK. I’ve played this game before. Let the reasoning begin. Here’s both barrels… right in your faces! “Because you guys suck at picking out cats, that’s why! You have two already and you’ve failed miserably. One cat thinks it’s a dog and the other is retarded!”
My logic must surely impress them so much so that they’ll probably back down now.
“OK,” the wife says, “How ‘bout you come with us and pick out the cat?” “No! You’re not getting a third cat, so forget about it. I’m not going to some shelter to volunteer three hours of my life so you can work on me there, either! Nice try! No cat. Period,” I say thinking I can’t state my case any clearer. “But dear,” she tries, “Kyle really wants another cat.” “I want to be left alone about another cat, and *that’s* apparently not gonna happen today either!” They exchange a glance. Subtle, yes. But I caught it. Something’s up. They’ve got a plan… “But if you had to pick a cat, what kind would you pick?,” my son offers. Oh, ho. I see where they’re going. I’m three moves ahead of ‘em. A little concession now and I’m done for… “You’re not getting another cat.” “Why?” “’Cause I don’t want another one, and you stink at picking cats!” “We can pick out a good cat,” my wife tries. “No you can’t! You picked two – and they look exactly alike! You can’t even tell the difference!” The 'dog' and 'retard' are both overweight calicos. My son goes for the overhead smash to the back of the court -- “So if we pick a different color cat, can we adopt one?” “No. Period.” (A nice backhanded volley, thinks I.) “But hon,” my wife continues to wheedle, “what if we find a nice black and white…” “No,” I head them off at the pass, “that’s not the only reason you can’t pick cats! You wanna adopt a cat who’s been around for two or three years, right?” “Ye-yeah,” she says, now tentative. She’s not sure where I’m going, so I drive home the point. “So the cat would have all his personality and idiosyncrasies? What make you think an adult cat would get along with the two we already have? See, you suck at this! You should have said, ‘We’d get a kitten so he could learn to get along with the cats we have already!’ If you pick a kitten, you also get the whole cat experience, from kitten to adult! Do you see how bad you are at this, Sweetie?!!!” “So if we find a black and white kitten, we can adopt it?” my son chirps in. I’d momentarily overlooked the squirt. He’s bringin’ his A game. I’m shutting this thing down now. “NO! NO CAT!” “Why not?,” continues junior. “Tell me this,” redirecting the conversation back to the wife and attempting to end this quickly as football will begin in a half hour, “male or female?” There’s that glance between them again. I see that they’re trying to work up a head of steam. Trying to figure out where I'm going... “A girl,” my wife tries. “WRONG-O, BABY! You got two males already! Whaddaya wanna do? Upset the whole balance of things? The correct answer was male! Ha Ha, see how you suck at this?!” My logic was flawless!! “So if we find a boy, black and white kitten, we can adopt him?” Whoa! Hold on. How in the fuck did we get back here?! The kid’s throwing down! He’s *running* the show and my *wife’s* giving back up!! I’m playing this all wrong I realize, hopefully not to late. It’s time to change my tactics… “OK, Kyle. Question for you. Is this supposed black and white kitten neutered?” There’s that glance again… but not so self-assured this time! They’ve tipped their hand too early!! I got ‘em up against the wall… “Yes,” he says so assuredly thinking I must side with that answer. “That’s three frickin’ strikes, and YOU ARE OUTA HERE!,” I scream. “You can’t neuter a cat that young! The correct answer was no… but if you adopt him, you get the SPCA to neuter him when he’s old enough! You guys don’t know who you’re dealing with!” OK. They’re set up for the coup de grace. Come on, boy… send it to papa... give it to me… give it to me… “So if they’ll neuter him, we can adopt a kitten?,” my wife tries. Gotcha. Game, set and match. They’re never gonna make this happen now! I can set the parameters so tight, the chances of them walking into the house with a cat are nil, and I get ‘em out of my hair before the game begins! “I tell you what I’m going to do,” I start. “If you go to the SPCA today and volunteer three hours to earn the right to adopt a **FREE** cat, **AND** you can find one that acts like a cat, **AND** they have one that’s black and white, **AND** it’s a kitten, **AND** it’s male, **AND** they’ll neuter it for free when it’s old enough... you can adopt a cat. The same old caveats apply, too. I don’t feed it, I don’t clean its box. Deal?” The glance again. “Deal,” my son says. Too easy. Gotta get a last shot in… “But I get to name it,” I finalize. “OK,” they assent in unison. “But no Grateful Dead references,” my son adds. Done deal. Cool, I think. Got away with that one by the skin of my teeth. They headed out and I kicked back to enjoy an afternoon of wife and son-free football promptly forgetting all about the issue. That is until 6 p.m. That’s when the back door banged open. And I’m staring at a black and white fur-ball on the coffee table. **Fast-forward one week.** “Sweetie,” my wife begins. “Do you consider Rider to be a member of the family now?” Rider was the name we’d settled on after Stagger Lee, Jerry, Bob, Cassidy and other even more vague Dead-referenced names had been rejected by my son. (Little do they know to this day he’s named for the Dead cover tune “I Know You, Rider!”) “Yeah. Sure.” “You won’t make Kyle take him back?” She'd just turned the tables again and and I didn't realisse it... again… very effective. “No. I won’t. What’s up?” “You’d better sit down…” She proceeded to tell me what really happened that day. She tells me that they didn’t have any kittens at the SPCA they volunteered at. They'd shipped all the kittens up north to a facility which specializes in young cats – a clearing house for the state. So she got a note from this SPCA, and DROVE 35 FREAKIN’ MILES to another SPCA to check out the kittens! Apparently, they had no black and white kittens there. No, that’d be to f-ing easy. But they had kittens that they sent out in a van that morning to a Petsmart in the area! So my darling wife and son, took their little note and drove another 25 FREAKIN’ MILES BURNING GAS AT OVER $2 DOLLARS A GALLON to the Petsmart where they found a black and white, male kitten to adopt. “So you see, that’s how we adopted Rider last week,” she finished. “And that’s everything…,” I led her on. “Well, the Petsmart wouldn’t honor the note. So we had to pay a $120 adoption fee.” “WHAT?!! YOU BOUGHT THE FUCKING CAT?!!! FOR A HUNDRED AND FUCKING TWENTY DOLLARS?!!!!!” “We didn’t buy him. We adopted him.” **“DID YOU GIVE THE FUCKING GUY $120?”** “Yes.” **“DID THE FUCKER GIVE YOU A CAT?”** “Yes.” “Then, my dear, ***YOU BOUGHT A FUCKING CAT!!!!"*** And that’s how I came to have three cats in my house. And how I lost the last vestiges of my belief that I ran my home. Gotta run. I gotta pick up a 35 lb. bucket of litter on my way home...