Friday, July 27, 2001

The World of Haruki Murakami

Please. I beg you. Read Haruki Murakami. There. I said it. And it felt good.

I look at that website from time to time, even though it hasn't been updated since roughly before the age of man.

In other news I had to go PetSmart to get cat litter for Hannibal J Cat, Esq.. I know. Here it is the second day of my weblog, and I'm already talking about my cat. For those of you who haven't left already, there is hope: this little story is not about my cat, but in fact about a fat woman wearing only a T-Shirt. Interested now? I thought so.

So I had to get cat litter, a task that always gives me the tiniest sense of disquiet, because every time I go to PetSmart to get it, I end up waiting in line for at least five minutes. No matter what time of day I go. Usually when I get there, there is not a soul in the store besides me. The registers sit lonely and abandoned, customer-free. Once in a while a tumbleweed will drift by. The strains of a harmonica can be heard wailing their bleak dirge far off in the distance. I stride confidently to the litter section. The litter section is an interesting phenomenon too: I can never for the life of me remember where it is. I have a sneaking suspicion that the PetSmart people move it every couple of weeks, perhaps deliberately to coincide with my visits. Anyway, this time it was on the far left wall. And I'm pretty sure they have more kinds of cat litter than is strictly necessary.

I go straight for the Johnny Cat, pausing only briefly to stare at a little grey rat running in his wheel. When I stare at the rats and hamsters I get that looking-at-someone-else's-children goofy look on my face. But I don't want any more rodents. I had them when I was a kid and folks, it just ain't worth it. I mean, if you're lucky they live two years. It's like getting a mayfly. Nothing but heartache in hamsterville, friends and neighbors.

Anyway I get Hannibal J Cat, Esq. the Johnny Cat because I see a sort of zen simplicity in it. Your cat wants to go. He's got the Johnny Cat. He doesn't need anything complex. No scenting or cedar chips. Until they get cat litter nanomachines, I'm sticking with it.

Back to the story. I get my 20 lb bag of Johnny Cat, and head for the wasteland of the checkout counter. Of course, though, as soon as I get get within 20 feet of the register, customers appear seemingly spontaneously, perhaps from a series of interconnected tunnels they have built under the entire mini-mall for this express purpose. I don't know. They swoop into line in front of me. There is a woman attempting some sort of bonding with the girl at the register. She is asking about some sort of PetSmart get-together or other, which is always a mistake. The people at PetSmart don't really care. They always have to ask someone. And chances are that person won't know either. But they'll be more than happy to have you wait at the register while they go through everyone in the store to ask them about the "July Poodle Shave-A-Thon" or the "Annual Hermit Crab Races". And here is the key to it:*you can't get mad at them because you are at a pet store*.

Pet stores are cute and cuddly. You can bring your kitty or doggy in there and let them pee on everything in sight. You could probably even bring in your incontinent hermit crab and let him evacuate his bowels all over the place. The management welcomes that sort of thing. They follow you around with paper towels just in case you feel like letting go while you're there. Go ahead! Everyone there is a happy pet owner. Because, let's face it, if you weren't a happy pet owner, and maybe harbored some sort of grudge against your pet, you wouldn't be making a special trip to PetSmart to get food that's twice as expensive as the grocery store stuff.

So while we are waiting around for the news to descend from on high, we are powerless to speed the proceedings along. And the 20 lb. bag of Johnny Cat has begun to feel a little heavier than before. I think about switching arms, but decide against it. The possibility of a bag drop is small but could be a scene of somewhat epic proportions. Picture it, as I switch the bag from right to left arm, the contents inside shift, subtly but inexorably, the weight is unbalanced and down it goes, exploding everywhere like some sort of oil change clean up at the Shell station gone horribly awry. And, god forbid, the bag could land on one of the cute pets that have tagged along with their owner to the shop. I wouldn't want a crushed hermit crab on my conscience. So I left the bag in my right arm. The woman at the register is bringing things to a conclusion, and now there is but one transaction between me and being able to put down the 20 lb. bag.

A fortyish woman in front of me has a cat bed in a bag, and has brought along her son, a child whose head is roughly at counter level. He is eyeing the little dog bowl full of dog biscuits on the counter. With every fiber of my being I want this kid to eat one. I can tell he is gauging whether or not his mom would notice, or if she could get to his mouth in time to get the biscuit out before he started crunching it. I silently urge him on as the throbbing in my arm starts to grow stronger. I really want to put this bag down. I'm willing to accept the possiblity that it might crush a hermit crab, or perhaps even the would-be biscuit eater kid's head.

The throng of PetSmart employees who were gathered outside smoking when I entered the store all return en masse and take up positions behind the counter. Now being your Joe Average cat litter buying kind of guy, I assume that one of them will offer to take the next customer, *me*, thus relieving me of my burden. But no. They aren't open. They are existing in a serene state of non-openness. They stand at their registers and gaze somewhere far beyond this little mortal world of ours. Then I hear the words "We have a return".

The woman with the biscuit-eyeing son is going to attempt to return the cat bed. Her cat can't have used it that much. God knows if my cat used it there would be grey fur and piles of dried cat vomit all over it. The other employees leap immediately into action, encircling the girl at the register to offer advice and encouragement like some sort of bizarre Cat Bed Return Intervention. The kid siezes this opportunity, with his mother thus distracted, to grab a biscuit and stuff it into his mouth. I gaze at him with a newfound respect and silently salute him for his guerilla pet treat tactics. But before I can watch any more of this blessed biscuit-chomping, my eyes are distracted by a blur of white motion.

An undulating mass of woman is coming down the tropical fish aisle. And she is wearing a long white T-shirt. There are no pants involved in this equation. Just a long white T-shirt and some seriously over extended and clearly visible undergarments. To preserve whatever modicum of decency may still be left in this story, I will end the description there, comforted that you will share my lifelong nightmares of that emotionally scarring sight.

That was about it for the excitement portion of my lunch hour. The woman got a brand spanking new cat bed and her son got the benefit of the multivitamin goodness of animal by-products, possibly but not necessarily including horse bones. I'm sure his hair will be extra shiny tomorrow. And when I finally did get to the register and put my 20 lb bag on the counter, the girl was not only courteous, but actually apologetic about the wait. So go to PetSmart. That's the message I really want to impart to you. It's cute and cuddly and you can bring your incontinent hermit crab.

Only one thing in the above story was not true.

To answer your inevitable question: Yes, this is the kind of crap you can expect to read on a near-daily basis in My Life as an American Gladiator. Except that I'm going out of town tomorrow, so you'll just have to wait a couple of days for the next exciting installment.


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