Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cockroach Cake

Joanne doesn’t like me to tell this story, so naturally I will. Aesthetic concerns keep me from putting it on page one of this collection of memories, but the temptation is strong.

After Joanne taught at George Washington Junior High School for a year, she transferred to George Washington Senior High School. The math and science staffs took turns bringing in goodies for Friday snarfing. When it became Joanne’s turn, she decided to make an angel food cake.

She got out her bowls and the ingredients, and soon she was ready for Mr. Mixmaster. Unfortunately, a large cockroach had taken up residence in the mixing machine and when Joanne turned it on he dropped into the batter. It is hard to tell who was more surprised, Joanne or the cockroach. Joanne had the better of the deal because she at least survived whereas in a matter of a half second the cockroach disassembled into unrecognizable parts.

What to do? After some thought, Joanne continued mixing until the cockroach was thoroughly assimilated into the batter. Then he was baked like four and twenty blackbirds and set before her colleagues. Joanne ate the first piece. Nobody detected an extra portion of protein in the cake, nor did Joanne see anyone picking pieces of mandible from between their teeth.

Teachers will eat anything put before them in the staff room, but often they don’t know it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Appreciation for a Goddess

Molly did her own share of terrorizing. She wasn’t the innocent, persecuted victim she pretended to be. One day our landlords, the Perez family who lived on the ground floor of our house, brought home an amiable, large footed German Shepherd mix puppy. The pup greeted everyone with joy and gladness, sure that no one meant him harm. And then he met Molly. She meant him harm. She met him with outright fury, fanging and slashing viciously. The puppy hastily retreated, having lost the fight before he even knew he was in the arena.

For the next few months Molly tormented the puppy every time she met him. And she went out of her way to meet him. But from one thing or another, Molly and the puppy did not encounter each other for six months. Finally, one afternoon, Molly caught scent of the dog around the corner and charged only to meet not a cringing puppy but a fun loving young giant of a dog who was not in the least afraid. Molly went from fifth gear to reverse in a tenth of a second, leaving paw hide on the pavement, and then attempted to climb a concrete post. She actually got about four feet up the post before she realized that cats can’t climb concrete posts. She made a mighty leap from the post to the stairwell and disappeared into the house and hid for the rest of the day, reflecting on life’s basic unfairness.

Eventually we left Guam for Spain and had to leave Molly behind. Molly went to live with Lyn Walker. Lyn had a two-bedroom apartment, one for Lyn and one for Molly. At last, someone appreciated a goddess. But Lyn left the island as well and Molly moved in with Bob and Marcia Hartsock. Since the Hartsocks never let anyone drive on their couch, Molly lived to enjoy a comfortable old age.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Molly and the Pig

Still on the subject of life’s imperfections, there was the time we had the shipping strike. Almost everything Guam uses is shipped in or flown in. Molly had become accustomed to eating a certain dried cat food. The bits came in the shape of little dried starfish. We were happy because the food was relatively cheap.

We were less than happy, though, when the island ran out of little dried starfish and Molly wouldn’t eat anything else. We tried everything. Canned tuna, canned salmon, fresh fish, smoked oysters, carrots with butter on them, but all to no avail. She wrinkled her lip and turned up her nose at all our offerings, and she got thinner and thinner. Finally, she even began to get smaller. She got down to about three pounds, did our incredible shrinking cat. But still she wouldn’t eat. One day she stalked into the house with something furry in her mouth and spat it out at our feet. The furry object, a shrew by profession, squeaked and ran away. Molly, meanwhile, gave us a “see-what-you-made-me-do” look and stomped out of the house, making as much noise as a three-pound cat can make.

Fortunately, the shipping strike ended and the little dried starfish reappeared before Molly disappeared.

But even without food shortages and surgeries, Molly found life difficult at times. For instance, there was The Pig. There was this wild pig, you see. Well, not really a wild pig, but a tame pig belonging to someone, we never knew who, that just ran at large through the neighborhood streets raiding garbage cans. We couldn’t outwit the pig. Firmly fitting garbage can lids posed no particular problem. We tried waiting until the garbage men were almost to the house and then quickly ran out with the cans. We’d run back in and hear the crash as the pig, appearing out of nowhere, tipped the can over and gorged himself on our garbage.

The pig just didn’t outsmart the Harrises. He outsmarted the whole neighborhood. Granted, we weren’t Harvard faculty, but you’d think we could outwit a pig, collectively if not individually. But no, things came to such a sad pass that our son, Eric, went to the village commissioner to complain. The commissioner’s advice was short and succinct. Eat the pig! But we didn’t do that. We didn’t know who the owner of the pig was or how he would react to his next fiesta entrĂ©e disappearing into his neighbors’ gullets.

What did the pig have to do with Molly? Well, pigs, you see, are omnivorous with a curious taste for cat food. Every time the pig saw Molly he would think, “FOOD,” and chase her. Fortunately for Molly, she always reached the nearest coconut palm before the pig. On several occasions we would come home to find Molly up a palm tree, waiting for us and wondering what had taken so long. She grew to really hate pigs.

One day we were on the southeast side of the island for some obscure reason and we came across someone’s idea of a zoo. The zoo had carabaos, a pony or two, one poor fruitbat hanging upside down trying to get some sleep if only people would let him alone. And a wild boar. At least, that’s what the sign outside the cage said. Inside the cage was a little black piglet hoping somebody would scratch him behind the ears. Joanne granted his wish, and gave him a belly rub as well.

Having done her good deed for the day, we returned home. Molly greeted us and Joanne reached down to pet her. But the cat recoiled from Joanne’s hand and her face wrinkled in revulsion. As far as she was concerned, we had been consorting with the enemy and she wouldn’t come near us until we had changed clothes and boiled our hands.