March 18, 2016
In my fiction, I have been known to write two pages describing tree bark, five hundred words on the smell of a flower. There is so much meditation in minutia. The opening of David Lynch’s film “Blue Velvet” comes to mind, as the camera hones in on an idyllic yard scene to beneath the grass, and there is utter chaos and violence, as insects fight it out. Such is the artist’s attention to detail.
Speaking of (de)tails. I did a theatre residency in Harvard, Illinois. The folks I was staying with had a calico cat. This fat old boy would lie on the dining room floor, in front of an enormous grandfather clock, and it would fall asleep, rear end toward the clock. And before long, its tail would take on a life of its own, arcing back and forth in exact rhythm with the pendulum of the clock, in the exact same direction. Tick . . . tick . . . tick. A dinner party of people would put down their forks and watch this performance. Tick . . . tick . . . tick.
I am quite fond of tail, have been ever since I was a boy (shame on the dirty-minded among you). My current favorite tail is attached to one Scout the Cat. She has invented a game, Cat Vs Dad. She demands to play this game five or six times a night. If I ignore this request, gentle paw pats are administered to my legs, until I pay attention.
Feline experts warn owners that cats do not want their tails touched, or their bellies rubbed. Scout rolls on her back several times a day, legs splayed (shame on the dirty-minded Trumpians among you) and I scratch her from neck to back legs—with a backscratcher. Her purrs sound like an Evinrude motor. She signals she’s done with this treat by biting the tines of the instrument.
Rules for Cat Vs Dad (transcribed by psychic connection): 1. Look at my tail; admire its symmetry and perfection. 2. If you don’t look at my tail, I will whip it furiously until you stop whatever it is you are doing. 3. Place your right hand on your lap and wait for my signal. DO NOT GLANCE AT THE TV. 4. I will lower my tail onto your hand and wiggle the tip, and probe your fingers. Think of a fisherman wiggling his rod tip thus making the purple plastic worm wiggle underwater. 5. Gently Morse Code my tail to let me know you know the game has begun. Immediately release the tail or I will bite you bloody. 6. Try to catch my tail, block my tail with your palm, pin my tail, pat my tail, or perk up my tail. 7. I win. I always win. If you actually catch my tail, I will bite you bloody.
My friend Kathy was owned by a fat cat named Fang. I once saw an inebriated party guest bend down, pick Fang up and kiss him on the mouth, whereupon Fang bit the gentleman, piercing his right earlobe with sharp teeth. Blood gushed. Forty people were doing cocktail chat and did not see this. The artist saw this. The bit gentleman threw Fang up the stairs to the next level of the condo, covered his ear with a hand, went to the bathroom, and emerged with a wad of toilet tissue stuck to his earlobe.
Like I say, it’s all in the details.