Thursday, September 22, 2011


She had a habit of taking photos of the moon even though they never came out. Even though when she took them the moon was big and close and you could see it's dimples. But in the photo it only looked like a small light in the distance. He had a habit of saying things like, "It would be easier if we broke the animal kingdom down into two groups those that eat with their mouth and those that eat with their hands." 

I remember the day I saw the brown snake lying in the grass with a toad halfway hanging out of its mouth. The snake looked uncomfortable but the toad looked pretty relaxed. It's legs are limp but once and a while it will kick and the snake will say, "Where do you think you're going?" and wiggle the toad a little farther down the snakes throat. (Do snakes have throats? Could they be just one big long throat that ends in an asshole)? And each time the toad struggles to avoid the inevitable it moves a little closer to it. And still it looks like the one who is feeling the majority of the pain here is the snake. And like a parent says to their kid just before spanking them he whispers to the toad, "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you." But the toad and the child think, "bullshit,  if that were true you'd have me giving you the spankings." 

Which is what I said to the cat I found dying on the side of the road when I was in high school. I saw it struggling to get off the street towards the shade of camphor tree. It's black and white fur was bloody and matted near it's head and pieces of bone were sticking out of it's left leg. It was crying when I approached. As I got closer it started to hiss at me  but shortly gave up in the idea that it could defend itself from anything. Initially I considered calling Animal Control. I assumed they'd put it to sleep immediately but I also wondered, would they show up in their truck and scamper around with a stethoscopes around their necks, quickly take the cat's vitals and wheel it on a gurney into the back of the truck. Would they nurse it back to health first? Put its broken cat bones back together, give it a bath and sew up the wounds. Then in a very systematic way schedule a date to put it to sleep.  Feed it a last meal, maybe salmon and milk, the cat would then ask to be forgiven for it's sins. "I'm sorry for eating the parakeet and blaming the dog." Then someone like Tom Hanks would walk it towards the electric chair and he'd be comforting and tell the cat it was going to a better place. And the cat would look back and smile, the kind of smile that says, "I don't really believe that but it's nice of you to say so." 
I couldn't decide which was worse so I asked the cat "Hey cat, do you want to get better before you get worse? Because you can die now or you can die later, which will it be?" The cat just lay there, it's eyes slowly blinking as if he was thinking about it. I looked around and noticed a group of cinder blocks that were used to keep a garbage can from sitting directly on the grass.  And just before I dropped the cinder block on the cat's head I whispered, "this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you." Afterwards it stopped breathing. I felt around on the cat to try and to check its pulse but I don't know where cat pulses are located. I put the block back under the can and put the cat inside. 

Today in the paper was a story about a woman who has her own robot. It all started when her heart fell asleep the same way your foot might after you've been sitting a while, that type of thing.  
"I can't feel anything." she explained.  
"How do you feel about that?" the doctor asked. 
"I don't know, I guess I don't mind, I don't feel anything so I don't know."
When her doctor placed the stethoscope against her chest he could hear her heart. It beat regularly.  
"It's numb and feels all pins and needles." she said as she made a worried smile.  
The doctor sighed the way doctors do when they have bad news. He told her he'd seen these kind of cases before, that the outlook was iffy. Then he wrote, clipboard in hand, a prescription for a personal robot.
"Can I name the robot?" she asked
"You can but I don't recommend it." 
"I think I'll call it Cheese."
"As long as your heart is asleep you won't be able to feel or express anything. That is why I've prescribed you the robot. The robot will objectively determine how you would be feeling. On his display board you will see an emoticon. It's very straight forward. If you are happy your robot will let you know that you are happy. If you are sad he will let you know that you are sad. Of course you won't feel any of this but at least you'll get a sense of would feel if you could feel."

"What if it's a feeling of sad-happy or happy-sad?"
"Don't worry we have an emoticon for that too."
In the article the woman explained what it's been like to take care of a robot "Rust is an issue, you must always think about rust but still I'd never go back to a life without my robot."
"What's it like not having any feeling?" asked the reporter
"It's like when it's been raining and it lightens up a bit and you go outside but it's raining so lightly you don't even feel the rain. And if someone we're to ask you "Is it still raining?" you'd answer no even though it is.
And when the reporter asked "So you're happier today than before you had this heart condition." 
The woman turned, looked at her personal robot, and the robot shuffled uncomfortably and it's display said,  : /


At least the snake memory I know is real, meaning I remember the toad twitching as well as when I got spanked for making my brother deaf that afternoon. By real I mean, not the kind of memory one thinks was real but only remembers a photo of it, not the actual event itself.  Like the memory I have of when I was around three and I'm wearing overalls (why do parents love to dress their kids in overalls when they themselves would never wear overalls?) sitting on green outdoor carpeting playing with a plastic ambulance, which is actually only a memory of the photo.

The day the snake ate the toad I was playing with my plastic stethoscope. It came with one of those doctor kits that are standard issue for all kids. The one with the knee tapping hammer and the look up your ear and nose thing. Aside from the stethoscope the rest of the kit was pretty worthless, how many times can you hit yourself with a plastic hammer until that gets old? The stethoscope was fun because it could be worn as a fashion accessory and it really worked. What I mean by saying that it worked was that if you put the part meant for listening  into your brother's ears and put the part meant to pick up the sound of a heart beating to your mouth and screamed "Can you hear my heart beat?" as loud as your eight year old voice could go then it works. You're brother may not hear your heart beat, he may not hear anything for a while after this, but it's a lot more amusing than tapping his knee with a plastic hammer. But not amusing to your mom who now has you over her knee and isn't tapping but beating you and whispering, ""This hurts me more than it hurts you."

When she said to him, "Why do you make that face when you look in the mirror?" he was embarrassed but thought it was funny because he knew exactly what she was talking about.
Still he said, "What face?"
"The one you make every time you look in the mirror, your mirror-face." she said and then made her face like his mirror-face and they both laughed.


  1. i enjoy your writing, jeff. and i don't think i had an opportunity to thank you. so, thank you. my time with you helped make my year. best of luck with your upcoming peregrinations... i'm cheering for you.


  2. I had to look up the word peregrinations. I like it. I'm actually going to live with Pierre. I appreciate your comment and reading my writing. Where are you now? I'm glad you had a good time. It wad good to see ya. Take care man!