Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Call in the Night

You're traveling through another dimension -- a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's a signpost up ahead: your next stop: the Twilight Zone!

Cue spooky music.

I’m sure the theme music from that once popular show was playing if only I had listened close enough, but with the TV on and a noisy movie with gunfire and police sirens, I probably missed it. It was the phone and its weird ring that got my attention. The phone system here at the humble abode is nothing fancy; a three unit wireless set-up made by Panasonic with a ho-hum electronic ringer, nothing unique as with so many of the cell phones.

I was home alone—except for the cats off course—at night, the Missus being off on another saintly mission somewhere or maybe one of her many social obligations, when the phone rang. Nothing scary about that, happens all the time, but this ring was different, not the normal spacing between rings but a two ring burst, silence, then another two rings.


This sequence was not totally new to me as the Panasonics have a phone to phone paging/intercom feature. It comes in handy in cases such as when I’m in the man-cave and need to know how many beers are left in the fridge. I simply pick up phone #1, hit Intercom, and press the digit 2 to page phone #2 in the kitchen. In truth, it doesn’t work exactly like that because the Missus ignores the call and yells for me to get off my butt and come to the kitchen if I want to talk.

But on this particular evening—remember, no one else is in the house—I get a page call.


Now, I know the cats can be pretty innovative at times, especially when they want to be fed, leg rubs, lap jumps, nosing the food bowl along the floor, that kind of thing, but I’ve never had one of them call me on the phone to order out.


I muster up my courage and lift the receiver to see exactly what phone the page is coming from. The LED display reads Phone 0. There is no Phone 0 in the house, only #1, #2, or #3. Can you hear the music now? I could. Should I answer it? Had to, had to know.


Nothing, no one there. Thank God. But I would not have been at all surprised to hear Rod Serling say, “You've just crossed over into... the Twilight Zone.”

Creepy Rod Serling

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Three-legged Cat

Okay, so the cat had four legs, but it could only use three. The gray cat named Blue came limping home a few days ago, some sort of injury being obvious. Blue is but one of the many cats the Missus has taken in through the years and if you recall, the same one that had a seizure and has been a little loopy ever since. The Blue cat spends a lot of her day scanning the skies, head and neck swiveling, looking for UFO’s, asteroids, or maybe Japanese Zeros coming out of the sun… who knows?

We checked the injury, or tried to and if you’ve ever tried to examine a cat that’s hurt you know what I mean, but the only thing that looked unusual was one claw that seemed to be aimed at an odd angle. There was no blood. Can’t be all that serious we think and place her in medical isolation, otherwise known as the utility room, for some healing time. The isolation was necessary as the other cats pick on little Blue at every opportunity, lying in wait, pouncing, and generally making her life miserable. My theory is that it’s a natural selection thing; they sense weakness (Blue’s mental problems) and want to eliminate her from the pride.

A day or so goes by but the condition worsens. The cat is literally hopping around her cell on three legs. Naturally, the Missus aka the Saint of Cats, takes the feline to the vet. The diagnosis is that the area around the wayward claw has an abscess. An injection of antibiotics and a king’s ransom in fees later, the cat goes back in the hole for recuperation.

Two more days go by and the cat is going stir crazy, meowing at the top of her lungs, protesting the inhumane treatment from her jailers. The Missus is back in the bedroom, talking on the phone, and the yowls of the cat are getting to me. I set it free, if only to roam the living room and the rest of the house. Wasn’t good enough. The cat goes to the front door and the yowls continue. What the hell? I’ll let it out, just for a while, for some fresh air. Besides, how hard can it be to catch a three-legged cat? So, I’m watching it with one eye and keeping the other on some dark clouds moving in—maybe the weather guys were right for once about the rain—while Blue merrily sniffs the flowers once again scanning the skies, ecstatic in her freedom. With darkness only minutes away, I decide her parole is over and make the move to bring her in. Nope. Cat has other ideas. I pick up my pace. So does the cat, the bum foot healing before my eyes. Faster and faster, now at a trot, Blue heads for the street and the wooded area beyond. Uh, oh. The lot across the street is dense with trees, fallen limbs from the ice storm a couple years back, and boulders. A small creek divides the acre. The lot is also thought to be the home of The Mean Cat, a feral cat that tangled with Old Yella recently resulting in yet another vet bill.

I make a dash to head off the cat and get to the street ahead of her, but she gave me a juke like an Oklahoma U. running back, and disappeared in the brush. I’m in big trouble. Not only did I let The Precious Blue out of her room, but now I’ve lost her in the woods with The Mean Cat in the neighborhood and night is falling fast. I am not prepared for a safari. I was in my evening wear, a tee shirt, a pair of sleep pants, and sandals and here I stand looking at trees, broken limbs, weeds, poison ivy no doubt, and slick steep banks with jagged rocks. But it’s that or face the Missus. I dive in.

Luckily the cat emerges, returns to the yard, and bless her little crazy heart, stood still long enough for me to scoop her up. By now I’m panting like a lizard thinking heart attack, the big one, all for a skinny cat. I return Blue to her room and quietly close the door. The Saint is still on the phone, oblivious.

Cats can drive a man to drink…and have.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fishing with Arnold: The Saga Continues

I am happy to report that I have safely returned, relatively unscathed, from another fishing trip with Arnold. For all those who prayed for my well-being, thank you. The trip to Broken Bow Lake in southeast Oklahoma has become an annual event for Arnold and I. My former employer, Southwestern Bell Telephone, began sponsoring a bass tournament there many years ago and I always look forward to it. It’s a chance to see some old friends, relax, and maybe even catch a fish or two.

However, the experience has not been without incident. Some may recall the time we ran aground on a mid-lake sandbar, the occasion when we ran over the ramp and broke the prop, or the episode when the boat ran out of oil (or so we thought) leaving us adrift with only a trolling motor to travel 5 miles in high wind. Truth is, so many life threatening events have occurred with Arnold at the helm, that I’m considering writing a book.

The weekend began with almost perfect weather, slight overcast, wind of course (there’s always wind in Oklahoma) but with temps in the high seventies. The boat started, the drain plug was in place (and that is not a given) the batteries were charged; it was all systems go. As for the fishing, it was spotty at best. The lake level looked to be at least 5-6 feet below normal with the water so clear, it was easy to see the bottom ten feet below the boat. We decided to travel to the head end of the lake where the water tends to be murky and warmer, more conducive to bass breeding and the spring spawn. An inviting cove appeared on the east side. It had the right depth with numerous tree stumps and brush to grab lures and tangle fishing lines, a condition that I am quite familiar with.

But it was at the back of the cove and around a bend that we saw smoke. A fire was slowly but surely making its way up the slope, feeding itself on the dry pine needles. It was a small fire as forest fires go, less than  the square footage of an average home, but the wind was rising and it seemed that once the flames reached the top of the hill and with the present dry conditions, it could easily get serious. We decided that we should call the authorities on such things (911?) and report the blaze but neither of us had a single bar on our cell phones. The decision was made to try to put it out ourselves.

We did have a small fire extinguisher—standard equipment for boats—and a minnow bucket to carry water. But as we made our way back to the base of the fire, it struck us that there was something odd going on. There was no one around, no campground, no roads, not a sign of human activity for miles. How did the fire start? Strange.

It quickly became apparent that Arnold and I do not have a future in fire fighting. The tiny extinguisher was soon empty as well as the gallon capacity minnow bucket. As we stomped out one blaze and moved to another, the fire would just as quickly spring up again, the pine needle bed being perfect to hold the heat and wait for another gust of wind to reignite. It was hopeless. Back in the boat, we motored out to the main lake hoping to find a cell phone signal. Instead we ran across a gentleman wearing overalls, fishing by himself. He looked to be local. We told him about the fire and inquired about whom we should notify.

“Oh, the Forest Service is setting fires all up and down through here today,” he said. “It’s a controlled fire to burn off the underbrush.”

We looked around. Trails of gray smoke along the entire length of the lake could be seen drifting upward.

Somewhere, Smoky the Bear is laughing his ass off.