Last week I had a bad day.
I woke in the morning to find that our cat had peed… somewhere… in the house.
Now, we love this cat. So don’t misunderstand my intent when I describe how I crawled from room to room, sniffing the floor, muttering, “I’m going to kill you, cat.” Because what I meant to say was, Cat, I am going to find you. I am going to strangle you. And then I’m going to hang your body in a doorway, to serve as an ongoing warning to every other furry residents that rogue pissing? Is not okay.
In the most loving way possible, of course.
The truth of it is that our cat is a crotchety old man, and his bladder is apparently more adept at making crystals than urine. Which sounds completely awesome at first because, hot damn! We’re a fucking Swarovski factory! Have you seen what people charge for crystals? Screw the goose that lays a golden egg, I’ve got a cat that whizzes crystals! Only then it turns out that the crystals are made out of pee, and there’s not a fool on Earth who’s going to pay for cat piss crystals. Know why?
Because cat pee stinks baaaaaad like an outhouse in Hell after a buffet of bad Mexican food.
Which brings us back to me, nose on the floor, unable to find the source of the horrendous, mid-summer-humid-day-in-a-house-without-air-conditioning, smell.
I gave up and retreated to the kitchen, the one and only room that did not reek of urine, to hide out for a while and grumble into a cup of coffee. Only when I went to kill the solitary fly I spotted on my window and sent an entire black buzzing cloud flying, did I discover that I had squatters. Loads of them. Hoards of young flies, so many that if my kitchen were 19th century London, Dickens would probably write a novel about it.
Luckily, because they were young – small and slow – it only took me about an hour to kill them all. After cleaning up the fly graveyard, I took my coffee and gratefully ran away from the kitchen, only to be reminded that every other room stank like ammonia and anger.
So I went back to kitchen, where I had eradicated every last fly just two minutes before. And immediately heard the taunting buzz of about a dozen more flies dancing lewdly in my window. At least, I imagine they were dancing lewdly. Because that’s the rudest damned thing I can think of, and these flies were the rudest motherfuckers I’ve ever met. I killed them all. And I enjoyed it.
Then I tore my kitchen apart and scrubbed every surface I could find. I washed over and under and behind things. And when I was done?
What. The. Hell.
When Nick got home the entire kitchen was pulled apart, and I’d pasted duct tape on cracks and around light fixtures and, sure, I can admit that I probably looked just the slightest bit crazed. And as the poor guy backed away slowly, just when he thought he could make his escape, I may have told him, “Hey, be warned, the cat has urinated somewhere in the house and I can’t find where,” in a way that sounded kind of like a screeching, “SMELL PEE CAT UPSTAIRS WHATEVER FINE GO ARGGGGHHHH!!!!” Which makes total sense to me, so I don’t know what’s wrong with all of you.
We eventually did find the source of the cat pee smell (upstairs shower, easy to clean, only place I never thought to look) and flies (garbage can outside, hidden gap in window). Then we had to put everything away in the kitchen, which made me realize that I may have overreacted just a tiny bit. That realization did not stop me from sharing the story of my Very Bad Day with everyone I spoke with for the next several days.
Until, that is, the moment when my daughter asked about school trips. Homeschooled kids – mine, at least – are fascinated with anything that involves a yellow school bus. You don’t have to wear a seat belt? You get to sit in the front? Whoa. Mind blowing stuff. School buses are the stuff of Isabel’s dreams.
And so, she wanted to know if schools take kids on field trips. “Sure,” I said. “Sometimes they do.”
Do they get to go in the buses? The big, yellow ones?
Where do the buses take them?
“It depends,” I said. “They go to different places, just like we do when we go on a homeschool group trip.”
We just happened to be driving by a police station that had hosted a homeschool field trip a couple years ago. Isabel said, We went on a trip to that police station. Do schools go on trips there, too?
But they don’t bring the children near where the bad guys are, right?
My answer was reflexive. “Of course not. They wouldn’t bring children through where the bad guys are.”
But then I thought about it. And I remembered being in high school and going on a field trip to a large prison complex. And I remembered that, holy shit, they actually did bring us through where the bad guys were.
In fact, as they led us through the area where the bad guys were, several of my classmates spotted a friend of theirs, a guy who had been just a couple years ahead of us in school, among the orange-jumpsuited men on the other side of the bars. And the whole tour temporarily derailed while a half dozen boys flocked to that cell, calling out, “Hey, it’s Roger*! Rog, Rog! How’s it going, man?” (*Name changed, blah blah, I don’t know the rules and don’t want to be sued.)
I remembered the look of shock on poor Roger’s face, and how he shook it off to say hi back, and respond to the utterly bizarre inquiries into his well being. Because, in spite of the fact that he said he was “good,” I’m pretty sure Roger was not good at all. Roger was in prison. And not only was Roger in prison, but he was in prison on full display to his friends and former classmates.
You know that nightmare, the one where you’re in front of everyone you know and you’re naked? This is just a guess, but I’m thinking that being the headliner on a prison tour attended by all your school friends and acquaintances feels something like that.
And I realized – that is a bad day.
Perspective. Now I have it.