The PVP Diaries #53

A stain isn’t always a stain

Update 6-1

I’m just a guy eating cake for breakfast at 5:30 AM.

The first time I wrote anything about the Coronavirus was on March 13. Technically, I didn’t write it. CS Lewis did. It’s June 1st now, two and a half months or so later. Washington’s stay home order has been lifted, only not really, because phases are still phases and we’re coming slowly out of this thing, county by county. Even then it’s all 25% capacities and face coverings and 5-person limits. Unless you’re rioting or protesting. I love how many people watched The United States burning over the last week, whose first thoughts were “OMG there’s gonna be so many new cases of COVID now.”


Wuhan veranda 2

Obviously, furnishing it is an important next step.

I’m also refinishing our front door. Well, technically it’s more of a side door, but it’s the main entrance. The front-front is not very accessible with the way our house is situated. All the comings and goings happen on the side, next to the garage.

Door Job

I’ll pull the door back down today and remove the hardware to finish the sanding. It’s kind of important to time it all so that I can get it done and rehung before bedtime tonight. We also have to do some clever sheet-hanging to keep the cats from getting out. Oh, the challenges of this life. After doing the schoolwork swap for The Boy this morning, I’ll head out to pick up all the stain and such.

I took The Boy to meet up with a friend yesterday for some bike riding. We drove through our very familiar town, but in places that we haven’t seen in over two months. I drove by Target, recalling the time in March when I went there with my daughter and we bought the only remaining toilet paper – an 8-pack of some ridiculous recycled virtue brand that the hoarders wouldn’t touch. Everything was still such a joke then. Yesterday the parking lot was utterly packed. Some life is more normal than others.

The Boy was able to hang out with a friend he hadn’t seen since school closed, and I was able to hang with the dad, who is also a friend of mine. We did walks around the large park while he helped his daughter learn to ride her bike, and the boys pedaled around on their own. It was so refreshing.

After coming home, our family went over to another friend’s house where we sat outside on their patio for a couple of hours and had a few drinks and snacks and conversation that has been sorely missed. On the way home The Boy said, in a burst of odd epiphany, “can we go to the Habit Burger drive thru?” Oh my God, yes. What genius. We had cheeseburgers, French fries, and onion rings. And fry sauce. These three months we’ve been suc good little homebodies – only occasionally ordering pizza when I’ve worked too much to feel like cooking. Fast food hasn’t even occurred to us.

It was a divine end to a heavenly day.


Don’t hold the onions, Comrade Citizen!

Take what you want from this. It’s just a feeling. Tidy madness:

If I can’t save you,
Then I will take away your pain and
Drown it in the ocean alone.
If love won’t swallow,
Then I will tie it down to bed or
Keep it in my pocket with you.

So will you wait for me?
Love, will you wait for me?
So will you wait for me?
Love, will you wait for me?

And I can see this.
You are the apple of my eye,
The star up in my sky shooting,
And I’m aware that
You must look beyond the obvious
To find yourself a purpose or
A place to hide.

I’m terrified of who I am inside.
I’m a broken matchstick man.
Be my conduit.
This lullaby won’t lull the boy inside.
I’m a traitor to myself.
Be my old disguise.

I’m terrified of who I am inside.
I’m a broken matchstick man. (What have we all become?)
Be my conduit. (What’s lost is found.)
This lullaby won’t lull the boy inside.
I’m a traitor to myself. (What have we all become?)
(What’s lost is found.)

So will you wait for me?
Love, will you wait for me?
So will you wait for me?
Love, will you wait for me?


From the Beginning. Of One Day to the Next

Definitions are fascinating. We don’t get to decide what an ocean is. Or an insect, or a human, or a mountain, or a deer. But we do get to define them (what power!). We generally define them by their most notable, prevalent characteristics. The things that are most intrinsically and consistently “them” from the beginning of one day to the next,  in saecula saeculorum. 

The ocean is whales and plankton, sharks and seals, waves on sand and a handshake with the moon. The ocean is a list of glories too long to tell.

We do not define it by its pollution.

The body is heart and mind, skin and soul, laughter on tears and a dance with unknowable mysteries. The body is a vessel of beauty too vast to fill.

We do not define it by its cancer.

From the beginning of one day to the next, the beautiful bodies of the United States produce oceans of glories. Cub Scouts in nursing homes, churches feeding the hungry, neighbors helping neighbors after fires and floods. The corporations and sports franchises and police departments reach within themselves and outward into their communities to create healthy environments of access to education, employment, fitness and safety for as many traditionally under-served people as they can. New songs, poems, books, and stories are written every hour of every day; new paintings and sculptures are created. Indeed, the world of the arts is daily refreshed and brightened with more publishing opportunities and awards specifically targeted to the historically passed-over, the marginalized, the oppressed. The energy of the United States of America is, from the beginning of one day to the next, dispersed to the deepest reaches of the neediest depths of its own particular ocean of bodies, and is then spent in the recognizing, uplifting, spotlighting, and glorifying of all those who have been so difficult to see and hear over the centuries.

In its own stumbling, imperfect, grasping way, the United States of America has always spent its energy thus. Its cancers and pollutions have always been apparent and pernicious, and sometimes the cancer has consumed the organ or the pollution has choked the stream, but the country has never forsaken its scalpels or sponges. The body has thrived. The river has run. We have never, not once, let a cancer grow unfought or a pollution spread unchecked. We are an ocean whose full beauty is too deep to chart. A mountain of charity whose every peak is just a place to stand so we can see the next higher one.

Fascinating. We don’t get to decide what America is, but we do get to define it (what power!). We should define it by its most notable, prevalent characteristics. To say that America is defined by racism or that America is defined by injustice is to look at the ocean and see no water. To look at the patient and see no person. It means obsessing over dirt and disease in ignorance of the obvious. It means creating a definition out of caprice, malice, and self-pity, to the total exclusion of all of the beautiful things that are most intrinsically and consistently “us” at the beginning of one day from the last, ab initio. 


The PVP Diaries #52


Update 5-29

I’m just a guy who forgot to prep the coffee. Again.

But hey, it’s been that kind of week. Inslee spoke again yesterday, ramping up his appearances leading up to our June 1st lockdown deadline. He didn’t say anything about that, though. It was mostly about testing and agriculture. I was just reading snippets of his proclamation “Concerning the Health of Agricultural Workers.” Here:

WHEREAS, under Proclamation 20-25, Stay Home – Stay Healthy, I deemed workers in the agricultural industry, including those working in fruit, vegetable, nut, flower, grain, dairy, and livestock production, to be essential; and…

(emphasis utterly mine, implicitly his)

It’s that language. “I deemed…to be essential.” I’ll give an exceedingly gracious benefit of the doubt and say that the regal assumption of omnipotence implied by the words isn’t exactly conscious and intentional, but power always feels natural to people who don’t appreciate its source. We could stop this all today if we wanted to, and there isn’t a governor in the country who could do a thing about it. But hey, keep on keepin’ on.

He’ll “lift” the stay home order at some point. Maybe June 1st, maybe in another month, I don’t know. I just guess that when he does he’ll announce it like a celebration, smiling and munificent, as if he’s bestowed upon us something glorious, and will just wait humbly over here for the praise we owe him. Then we’ll triumphantly crab-walk, sideways and self-conscious, into our towns and cities, eating in restaurants at half-capacity, feeling watched and scrutinized at the tiniest level. Yay freedom.

He finished by saying that wearing a mask is a sign of your love for your community. I hate that crap. I was once asked by one of the city’s many clipboard crusaders on the sidewalk if I “have a minute to save the children.” So I either stand there and listen to her miserable spiel for a while, or I’m killing children. The moral binaries are so sophomorically embarrassing. I went to a few different places yesterday. I was wearing a mask. Not out of love for my community, but out of fear of them. I don’t want the loving members of my loving community to turn on me. The mask is protection from them. I saw a number of people not wearing masks, and I somehow was able to imagine that they do not hate me, or anyone else.

Coherence to community norms is one way to show you care, yes. But so is recognition of, and respect for, individual independence.

The Boy is not great with the kitties. He loves them and is very kind, and is no danger of going the full Lennie but he simply does not understand the pacing and spacing necessary for cats. He likes to pick them up and move them. His hand movements are a bit too herky-jerky around them. Etc. He does nothing whatsoever to hurt them, but you can almost see their eye-rolls when he comes in the room. The Boy is just a vessel of unsettled speed, and cats are a little too measured to appreciate it.

They’ll probably end up liking him the most.

They had their first visit to the vet yesterday. I parked, called the office to check them in, then left them on the doorstep of the building in the Ikea laundry hamper we’ve been using as a carrier. The real carrier that we ordered arrived yesterday, while I was at the vet. The technician came and brought them inside, and I sat in my car and waited around for the appointment to be over. Ran an errand in there, too.

The cats are healthy. Rae is showing no ill-effects from her 10-foot fall. Vaccinations are moving along on schedule. There will be no de-clawing. I remember doing that to our cats when I was a kid. It was normal – everyone did it. Then one day several years ago I heard that it was frowned upon. Everything has a shelf-life. And now that I have cats, I have a life as a shelf:


The dirt’s in around the patio. I sealed it (the patio, not the dirt) yesterday with a few coats of “wet look” sealant. It’s pretty great looking stuff. The lights are here, so I figure that’s what I’ll be doing today.

Yesterday my wife went to her appointment at the nursery (mis-typing that word introduced me to “bursary,” by way of auto-correct. A bursary is a sort of grant or monetary award for students who need it to attend college. Also something about monasteries). Yes, an appointment at the nursery. But that’s a busy place when we’re not living under restrictions. Now that everyone’s home and the weather’s getting nice, shopping by appointment was really their only option. She came home with lots of nice stuff to plant around the patio and elsewhere. If the weather holds, we’ll have a solid weekend of planting, digging, mulching. It’ll be good for us.

We need good. We’ve been running thin on patience and generosity around here. Things have sat still for too long. We are too close to each other. We are, I imagine, doing far better than many other people, so I have much to be thankful for. Still, this is all leagues below the ideal. We need new things to look at.

My favorite bakery is open down the street. I didn’t realize how unmoved I would be by this. The bakery experience is full-spectrum for me: the chit-chat with the folks working there, the pretending to not know what donut I want, the settling into a seat and listening to some ambient conversation, the nodding and saying hello to familiar regulars, and then the putting on the headphones and receding into the atmosphere of books and writing for a couple of hours. Standing on the sidewalk while being deceptively casual about my obsession with my distance from other people in order to get a donut and maybe eat it on the way home, is not the experience that’s going to bring me back to my favorite place.

I want to stroll in there, unmasked, and give out handshakes and hugs to the people I’ve come to view as friends over the last two years.

A bird just collided with the window next to me.


— How about a hug, Comrade Citizen? —

The PVP Diaries #51

So friggin’ over this crap.

Update 5-28

MOAR DAYSHBOORDZ! We’re up to six now:

Six dashboards

This new one shows some interesting data for a change. Click through to the link – it’s a little expansive for a useful screenshot. Here’s a carefully chosen selection that I am somewhat dishonestly using to present the picture I want you to see. I wonder if anyone else does that:

Activity tracker

There’s some more red triangles at the page (two more), but they both involve testing capacity, not the actual sickness. There’s plenty of hospital bed capacity, and only 5% of occupied beds contain patients with COVID-19. Keep in mind that being in the hospital while having COVID is very different from being in the hospital because of COVID. But that’s a number you just don’t see parsed out anywhere.

I mentioned recently that graduating to Phase 2 of normalization comes on a case-by-case, county-by-county basis. The county that contains the state capital just received approval. This is my surprised face:


The religious service guidance is out. This, too, is Phase-dependent (somehow I remember something like that from my electronics days in the Army):

Phase 1:

Phase 2:

Some people think the timing indicates that Trump is to blame for this. Some people think that the timing indicates that Trump is to credit for this. Some people are just getting back from their visits to essential businesses like pot shops and liquor stores, and will share their valuable opinions freely once they log in.


*It’s FEWER, you friggin’ halfwits.

I’m just a guy measuring life by the cubic yard:


Sometimes you flow, sometimes you ebb. Yesterday ebbed hard.

I’m just about over it. I did make it about halfway through that pile on the left yesterday, but I’m not enjoying the work like I was 2 weeks ago. At leas it’s keeping me busy. Today I’ll seal the pavers, which means putting out the word to the not-so-dead-end street that the kids all need to stay off of it until tomorrow. They’ve had the run of the place for the duration of the lockdown, and because our house is on one of the ends of the course that they travel, the patio sits right in the natural turn for any loops they make during their games. The problem I’ve noted with kids – all of them – is that they are kind and respectful, and they listen and they understand, and then they turn from you and just forget everything you’ve said. I’ve made several areas off-limits to their feet- places where plants are growing or the shrubs are a bit too delicate to be run through, and every single day I catch them running through there anyway.

There is a childless couple on the street who was long ago singled out by one of the moms on the block as being not nice enough to her children. She’s one of those sorts who cannot bear the thought of someone else telling her children off, no matter how much they may need to be silenced or put in their places. She bristled and still speaks disparagingly of the time when the childless ones placed a large garden/shrubbery area off limits to the kids on the street. I hear her exaggerating the terms of the story every time she tells it, so that by now it sounds like the neighbor came out waving a butcher’s knife and chasing the kids away from her hydrangeas behind a flood of curses and threats. Ok, ok, so not quite like that. But certainly it has changed from the reality of “can you kids please not play in this area,” to the perception of, “GET OUT OF THERE RIGHT NOW YOU DIRTY VERMIN.” Increasingly, we behave in person the way we do on the internet.

Yesterday the childless ones, along with the widowed mother of two teenagers, asked us all to please make sure our kids stopped climbing the trees in their yards. There’s a special discomfort in asking a kid to stop doing something so quintessentially tied to childhood as tree climbing. The neighbors are not ignorant of this. You never want to be that person. But I’ve seen the harm that climbing can do to a healthy tree, and I get it. Several months ago I banned them all (5 total kids who are old enough to do it) from climbing a cedar in the yard, because the branches just couldn’t handle them. The lowest ones – even large, healthy ones – were drooping desperately so that I had to do some undesirable pruning to save them. It took a solid two weeks of telling all of the kids, sometimes individually, sometimes gathering them up and telling them collectively, before they actually stopped climbing it. They’re good kids, but playtime erases their brains.

Anyway, the “please keep the kids out of our trees” message came to the neighborhood via text yesterday, as well as in person. I thought it was handled well. Not everyone else felt the same way. But as a species in general, there is perhaps nothing at which we do so dependably poorly as receiving criticism. Most parents, when told, “please ask your kids not to climb my trees,” hear “you are a terrible parent of terrible children.” Criticism and correction are taken as personal insults instead of opportunities for reflection and improvement. You don’t have to agree with every criticism you receive, I always tell the kids, but you don’t have to fight about it, either. Don’t be petty.

I fear, ultimately, that the beginnings of some unease on our not-so-dead-end street have been sown. We need to be let out of our cages, soon, all of us, so that we can finally have the freedom to choose how we want to get the hell away from each other.

Respect your neighbors, Comrade Citizen!

The PVP Diaries #50


Update 5-27

I’m just a guy, doing this again.


I’m tired. Broadly and acutely, after this long hibernation and a short night’s sleep. Let’s let Emily Dickinson write #50 for us:

My nosegays are for Captives –
Dim – long expectant eyes,
Fingers denied the plucking,
Patient till Paradise.

To such, if they should whisper
Of morning and the moor,
They bear no other errand,
And I, no other prayer.


Sometimes tomorrow, Comrade Citizen—

The PVP Diaries #49

Update 5-25

I’m just a guy who’d rather not be awake just yet, but cats.

2-5 daily deaths in a county with 2.2 million people is not the sort of stat that has me checking the toilet paper supplies, just to be sure. I would almost guarantee that, in any population of that size, including a major urban area, some other thing kills at least that many people every day. Cancer, gang violence, seagulls. Something.

June 1st fast approaches. That’s the last target date we received from Olympia for ending the stay-at-home order, mandate, strong suggestion, we-can’t-force-you-but-just-you-test-us, whatever thing. There isn’t a much better way to lose support than to set dates and continue to move them back, and I have to believe that any further extension of this condition beyond June 1st is going to be the beginning of noteworthy unrest. And no, I don’t mean revolution and armed conflict. But beaches and parks will be swarmed, closures will be ignored, businesses will open in defiance. And of course there will be more of the marches and protests that have already occurred, and which the Governor has been very condescending and dismissive towards. I don’t like any marches or protests. Something about them, no matter the cause, makes me rankle with disappointment and unease. It’s a sort of legitimized mob-rule. A designed, large scale antagonism that pretends to be all abashed, suddenly, when it receives pushback from authority. Any large group is at least 90% mindless momentum, and that’s all kinds of dangerous.

In any case, this week should bring something noteworthy from Governor Inslee. I think I’ve done alright at noticing his successes as well as his failures here, all while never forgetting that no matter what he’s doing, it only comes after a careful consideration of where his votes are coming from, and whether a run for President is in his future plans. I’m generous where it’s warranted, but politicians want absolutely nothing except re-election. Morality gets a condescending head pat and is sent outside to play in the rain. Sometimes politics and good choices do align, absolutely. But it’s always the politics, and never the good, that drives the choice.

Memorial Day weather was lousy. It cleared up enough in the evening to grill some steaks. I managed the charcoal poorly, being a bit rushed, so the overall quality was down a smidge from what we’re used to from me. Here in affordable Seattle, a steak at one of the big steakhouses can easily cost $80 for 10 ounces. The price screams upwards from there for all the Wagyu flying around these days. We rejoice here at The Haven when we can buy a couple of fat cuts for under $20 and make them taste even better here at home. And without all the stifling formality.

We took a 3 mile walk around Lincoln Park, amid the forests of pines and signs: “Park closes at 8:00,” “this is what 6 feet looks like,” “keep it moving,” “play area closed,” etc. The bad weather kept the crowds down, and it was by far the lowest number of people we’ve seen there in the past couple of months. It is still somewhat exhausting, though, wondering and worrying about what’s in the minds of everyone you walk past. Do they think you got too close? Do they think this is all nonsense? Am I being respectful enough of my fellow citizens while maintaining my right to approach this thing in the way I think is best? I’m so sick of it all.

My wife went to the grocery store for the first time in what, almost 3 months now? I’ve been to Home Depot several times, but otherwise we’ve gone nowhere. And even then I’ve only done the curbside pickup, where they bring my order out and put in my car so that I don’t even have to get out. Yesterday I went inside Home Depot for the first time, to visit the customer service desk and arrange a propane exchange. The amount of plexiglass and floor tape was staggering. The X’s on the floor that said “stand here” were not aligned with the cash registers (is that what they’re called now?), so you couldn’t obey the mandate of the adhesive without a very awkward exchange between yourself and the associate. But if you just positioned yourself where you naturally would for that sort of interaction, you weren’t on the X. Such dilemma. And it turns out that no matter how many people you see every day walking around with some kind of mask on their faces, it’s unsettling, odd and unnerving to put one on yourself in public for the first time. I felt so self-conscious, though I know there was no reason to be. Have I mentioned that I’m sick of all this?

Anyway, the grocery store. This is a city, so grocery delivery is so readily available and convenient that we got kind of comfortable in the routine. But we’ve been getting crazy here, going nowhere, and so my wife chose one of the 9 (at least) grocery stores within 4 miles of us, and headed out. Her report? Meh. It was pretty quiet out there. Some people without masks, which is a criminal offense in some minds, and a non-issue in others. She came home, unloaded the groceries, and found a pear that she probably wouldn’t have gotten in pre-plague times, when it was ok to pick up a piece of fruit, look at it, then put it back. But overall the produce was the purpose – fruits and veggies are often very disappointing when the groceries are delivered.


Last week I returned to a good sized short story that I was writing, sporadically, before our little gift came from overseas. It has racism and the gripping dilemma that a college educated city girl on a hog farm in Indiana has to face, between defending her female friend (#metoo! #believewomen!), and defending a well-liked illegal immigrant, a long time member of the community. The uncomfortable convergence of disparate social justice priorities, when one must be chosen over the other. There’s even cats. It’s got 17 pages to it, which makes it the longest single piece of fiction I’ve put together. I wrote several research papers and essays that touched the 25 page mark in college (just a couple of years ago!), but that’s not the same. For a guy who writes a lot, it seems odd to be impressed by writing a lot, especially when it isn’t even a lot. I need to aim higher. That’s what the novel’s for. At the beginning of the lockdown I was working steadily on it, with a well-established routine. Some chapters laid out, several scenes and dialogues written, lots of notes. I worked at the same time every day, in the same place. I said to myself “when this whole Wuhan virus thing is over, I’ll get back to it.” Seemed reasonable. Homeschooling The Boy was happening in my usual writing time. Well, that particular hospital ship has clearly sailed back to its home station, all unused and unloved, so it’s time to rearrange the priorities and the mind a bit and get back after The Work.

So, Tuesday. One of the final weeks of homeschooling. It’ll be rough when school’s out for the Summer and the kids are home all the — Christ. I had a wild dream last night that I was still teaching The Boy, but we were doing it at his school, which was actually my old Jr. High School in St. Charles, Illinois (hello, Haines Jr. High!). He was resisting his work, so I said “Fine. You’re just not doing school anymore, I guess. You’ll just have to do nothing and see where that gets you. Let’s go home so we can be there when the police arrive to talk to you. The school has to call them and let them know that you’ve quit.” He started freaking out, his teacher walked in the room, and I realized (as we always do in these situations) that I was in my underwear. I’ve had the naked at school dreams before, but only as the student.

When I go in for these weekly schoolwork exchanges, it’s just like Home Depot. I pull up and pop the trunk, one of the 3 teachers on duty pulls last week’s work out and replaces it with this week’s new material, and I’m on my way. But we always chat some through the open window of the car from whatever distance they keep. It’s definitely 6 feet. I don’t wear a mask. Again, I have to wonder whether they think I’m a grandma killer (that’s the metric, you know), or if they think nothing of it. I’ve mentioned, perhaps, that I’m sick of this? Of the ever-present suspicion and paranoia? If I haven’t mentioned it before (though I strongly suspect that I have), consider it mentioned now.

June 1st approaches! Ready your torches, Comrade Citizen!


A Plague Diaries Interlude

When we moved into our house, a little over two years ago,  everything connected to our staircase up to the second floor was a solid half-wall. Except for the one side of it that had some kind of an almost Bavarian, gingerbread house-like vibe to it, with oddly carved slats serving as, presumably, statement-making balusters. It was a strange choice for a focal point, and ugly.  The rest of the stairs from top to bottom were the aforementioned half-walls, bulky drywall constructions that must have been done because it was easier (and cheaper) for the builder, including two short sections that made for a kind of balcony where you could look down to the cramped entryway below (I don’t think it deserves to be called a foh-yay). Early on, we had it all replaced with a more traditional railing – balusters and newel posts and a handrail. It opened things up and improved the aesthetics drastically in the house.

It took no time at all for our 10 week old kitties to find the joy in weaving in and out of the balusters like border collies in an agility competition. Cats are such daredevils, of course, with that treacherous combination of extreme sure-footedness and disturbing insouciance that makes you wonder how they survive. Last night, Princess Wuhannah Rae and Madame Quarantina Maggie were in their ten minute gap between 3 hour naps, pouncing, kicking, biting, scratching, and rolling all over the place, just as the rest of us were quieting down for the night. My wife and The Boy had just laid back to watch Some Good News with John Krasinski, our daughter was in bed with a bottomless stream of dog videos lulling her to sleep from her phone, a few inches from her face, and I was steadily vanishing into my big leather chair in the living room.


Thinking about it now, I can’t remember if I heard the squeal before I heard the thud, or if it was the other way around. It hardly matters. I heard them both and I knew right away that the thing we joked about but didn’t believe could happen, happened. From my seat I was closest to her by far, and as soon as I stood up I could see little Rae laid out on the hardwood floor below the second story balcony. She fell ten and a half feet.

Over the past week we had seen them both close to that edge. We just figured that it was an obvious enough peril that even as kittens they would have the sense to keep clear of the drop. But they must have gotten to playing, and forgetting, and that’s how it happened. I ran to her. When I was within a few feet she managed to pick herself up and run awkwardly away from me. By now everyone else was downstairs, too. They had heard the scream, the yowl, the obvious cry for help. For a few minutes we couldn’t find her, then The Boy checked the thin space on top of the craft bin on the bottom shelf of our living room console, and there she was.

We got her out of there, held her gently, and let her down to watch her get around. It looked, sort of, off. But were we just seeing it through our fear and our shock? Was she doing fine but we couldn’t believe it?

No, no that was definitely a stumble. And her sister wanted to play with her, but she wouldn’t have anything to do with it. She wouldn’t climb onto anything, much less jump down, and she seemed entirely too willing to just lay down.

My wife dialed up an emergency vet. A technician heard her story and put her on hold for what turned out to be a very long time. I started googling things like “how high of a fall can a cat kitten survive.” Our daughter was pragmatic and observant, touching Rae here and there, checking her responses, and collecting data in her straightforward way. The Boy began by relating – “I know sometimes when I jump from somewhere high and then land, it hurts right around this part of my leg.” He points to a spot just above his ankle. “Maybe it’s the same for her.” Then, anticipating his sister’s reply, “I know she’s a cat and I’m not, but still…” Soon, though, he couldn’t stand thinking about it any longer, and his insuppressible empathy got the best of him. He started a hard, breathless cry that lasted for the next half hour.

My wife was still on hold with the emergency vet. I was getting surprisingly reassuring answers from the internet, which, as always, I took as gospel truth in spite of every bit of common sense telling me to do the opposite. One study was done that looked at cats that had survived five-story falls. Five stories! “How often does this happen,” I had to wonder. There were all manner of anecdotes about cats surviving drops from improbable heights, and walking away like nothing happened.

Eventually the vet got on the line and gave the practical guidance that none of us had the placidity to come up with on our own. “If she seems ok, monitor her tonight. Call your vet in the morning if there are any problems, or if you are still concerned.” Duh. Then also, “Keep an eye out for any signs of respiratory problems.”

That was good for a moment’s worry, but her breathing was normal, and she seemed ok. A little off, but wouldn’t you be? Sure, she seemed ok. I told The Boy, “she seems ok.” He told his mom, “I think she seems ok.” Our daughter told us all, “She’ll be ok.”

My wife carried Rae into the bedroom with her. The boy followed, and I tagged along, the four of us settling in to get back to watching Some (much needed) Good News with John Krasinski. Our Daughter and Maggie came in and joined us a minute later. Rae curled into my wife’s lap and slept, but we were all nervous because she wasn’t purring.  She tends to purr when she’s falling asleep. The Boy pointed to a spot on her midsection. “Usually when she breathes, this part goes up and down.” He moved his finger half an inch. “Now this part is.” Nobody said anything. His heart had discovered the lure of minutiae within a deep worry.

Maggie found a nook behind our pillows and purred enough for the both of them. Enough for all of us.

It was past 11:00 now. The bed was far too crowded for me to sleep, but nobody else had any trouble. I took myself downstairs to sleep on the couch, telling myself all the while that Rae would be just fine. My daughter said so, and she’s never wrong.

At about 5:45 this morning I woke up. I heard my wife come down the stairs, turn on the coffee, and then head back up. I didn’t hear anything else. But I listened. I just laid there and listened and I don’t know how long it took but finally I heard it. Like the fingertips of a hundred hands frantically drumming a desktop, the sound of eight tiny little padded paws tearing all helter-skelter across the hardwood floor – two fully healthy cats enjoying another ten minute gap between three hour naps by pretending to be lions. One of them would say, if only you asked her, that just last night she was in the savanna, lying in wait for a passing water buffalo, when she somehow fell from the highest branch of a tree.

Rae has the white face markings. Maggie has the best seat in the house.