You know how you can have like … the best day of your life, and then suddenly the whole world just beams down on you with sunshine and flowers for days and days to follow, and you just bask in that glow?
Yeah, neither do I.
Except for the first part.
My child has finally finished school. The official kind. At least for a little bit. Seventeen years of schlepping to class nearly every day. She’s graduated. She’s now a fully-fledged rocket scientist and has permission from all her teachers to hurl stuff up into space.
I wish I understood what it is that she’s going to be doing. I only know it has to do with the subjugation of Mars, triumphantly wrestling that planet into servitude for us Earthlings who are apparently fed up with this planet and are ready to conquer another one.
Or maybe she just wants to plant flowers and make it less orange. I don’t know.
The point is, is that graduation day was a day where I thought my whole heart would burst with joy. She raced down the aisle, and I sped toward her too. I have never hugged someone so tightly before. I cried. And laughed. And sobbed. And explained to all the thirteen thousand other people around us that my child just graduated from college, in case they were wondering.
Then I went home.
And I brought her cat with me. Just for the summer.
I love this wily, scrappy, reckless cat. Except for when she is wily, scrappy, and reckless.
When she’s sleeping, she’s awesome.
First thing that morning following graduation, I opened the front door to grab a flower pot on the front porch and this streak of jet black fur flew past me and disappeared. I panicked. Like really really panicked. I was in charge of the care of this cat who did not belong to me—the tiny little champion that supported my child’s exhausted soul all through school—and now it had entered the on-location shoot of a National Geographic special about mountaintop birds of prey where she was likely going to be the tasty treat of one vulture shared by seven of his closest friends.
Oh, dear God, where was she?
For two hours I searched outside. Under porches, bushes, behind barrels, and up trees. For two hours my head raced with what I was certain would be the result: my child would ditch her dream of meddling with Mars because her cat died. How could I be responsible for this?
I was defeated. I had to make the call—let her know what had happened and how hard I’d tried.
I opened the front door and suddenly that brazen black streak blasted past me once more—straight into the house and under the first couch she found.
My heart refused to stop hammering against my ribcage for at least a full hour, and my brain could not think of anything apart from “that was too close a call to ever repeat.”
Which is why paying a tax bill directly afterward was a really bad idea.
When one’s body and mind are busy recalibrating its official duties, math does not appear anywhere on the Top Ten Most Important Things list. It’s nowhere close. In fact, it’s so far away, Math doesn’t even know that a Top Ten Most Important Things list is a running concern. Math is out there busy chewing the fat with its neglected neighbors: grouting tile and soap sculpting.
Math did not think to show up and shout, STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND DON’T PRESS THAT BUTTON! when I ended up mistakenly paying the IRS the equivalent of Lichtenstein’s GDP for 2017.
I’m pretty sure I heard the smack of a giant facepalm it made though once it heard what I accidentally did.
As it was Sunday, no accountant was going to come to my rescue. The accountant I’d hired to help me with my taxes was very good at math, and she made clear to me that she knew how to count hands on the clock. There were still twelve full hours of Sunday left, plus eight more after that before she was going to answer her phone.
But mine began ringing off the hook suddenly. My cell phone, my house phone, the radio, and my computer all simultaneously began belching out panic signals “Grab your children off their swing sets and flee to the root cellar!” A major storm was barreling down upon us.
Now normally I am quite capable of handling big booming, lightning filled thunderstorms up here on this big hill I perch upon, but this one was determined to be a record breaker—also a tree breaker, a window breaker, and a furniture taker. (That last one was close enough. Move on.)
One by one I saw the heavy iron patio furniture glide right off the deck and tumble across the lawn, the cushions becoming new nesting fodder for a local fox’s den or half of North America’s birds. The lightning strikes—spitting distance away—made my hair stand up on end and left the acrid whiff of soot and cinders. Likely it was the charred fragments of a few desperately needed synaptic connections still struggling for cognitive responsiveness housed within my head.
Hours later after clean up, the windows, doors, and roof leaks, the search and rescue for the outdoor furnishings, the weeping over losing every tomato, green bean, and budding cucumber, I told the hound we were taking a walk. We would breathe deeply, walk swiftly, and cry where no one could see or hear us. I mean me.
He agreed but refused to have more than two boxes of Kleenex strapped to his collar. He’s so fussy, as it hardly added to the five pound whisky keg he already had fastened to that spot.
We walked. It felt good. The rain having plunged the temperature down twenty full degrees. All that deep breathing was finally starting to bring my heart rate down to somewhere around “only mildly concerning.”
Until I heard the fearsome, high-pitched scream of an unholy banshee—or it could have been a baby fawn being stepped on.
And one would remember that very particular sound because believe it or not, I too, have stepped on a fawn.
They hide. Beneath the grasses. Because apparently for a few tedious hours after being born they struggle with actually walking. Damn them.
And the hound had come upon one in his sleuthy, ferretting way. He scared the bejeebies out of both of them simultaneously.
And upon hearing the baby banshee holler, her mother—freshly finished from birthing—came shrieking down the ridge from above us. Barreling her exhausted body like a freight train straight toward her baby’s clueless predators, this doe was sending the message that she had not spent the last umpteen hours pushing out this bag of gangling bones and four sharp hooves for nothing.
Deer are loud.
And fast, and big, and really scary when plowing straight for your head.
She lept from the side of the hill and landed on the driveway where, because of the rain, her hooves skittered right out from beneath her big bloated body, and she slid across the road just like all my heavy iron lawn chairs. Then she scrabbled her footing on the other side and raced back up to the top of the other ridge mirroring the first.
She was prepping for another go around.
I screamed for the hound. And the little banshee squealed. The doe barked or roared or boarked (it’s a weird sound). There was just so much noise.
The second pass from Bambi’s furious guardian was apparently enough to jar the hound out of his muddled state of mind as he hightailed it straight up the hill and out of sight.
Which still left one large angry doe careening down a mountainside with anger and physics on her side. I was the remaining target.
Dumbstruck, I had no plan of action. I had bear spray on my belt loop, but that was about as useful as telling a Mac truck at full speed that he’d better “hold up there, buddy, can’t you see I have some Q-tips in my back pocket?”
She hurtled past me, again leaping and splattering on the driveway to slide straight across it like an ice cube.
I closed my eyes and clicked my heels together three times real fast.
When I opened them, I realized three things:
- If I made it home alive, I’d best cloak myself in bubble wrap for the rest of the day.
- If I made it home alive, there should be no “rest of the day.” Go to bed.
- If I made it home alive, realize that the universe does not like imbalance. For every high there is a low. And taxes. There are always taxes that somehow don’t count on the universe’s balance sheet.
I just really hope there won’t be taxes on Mars. Let’s not forget … I saved a cat that might be vital in allowing that to become a reality. Surely the universe will count that in my favor.
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