Last I spoke with Ms. Annie we talked about loving Jesus, Keith Richards and Winnie the Pooh.  And she told me that yes, sigh, she’d wash Dick Cheney’s feet in Heaven.  (Cheney has been unavailable for comment thus far.)  Anne was kind enough to speak with me again about her new book, a slim wonder titled Help, Thanks, Wow, that features this line, the finest Christian writing I’ve read in a very long time:

“This is the message of the Book of Job: Any snappy explanation of suffering you come up with will be horseshit.”

Right now, today — what’s your Help, Thanks, Wow?

My alarm failed at 5:45 am and at 6:30 the driver was ringing my doorbell and I was in my Ethel Mertz jammies, and – made a cup of coffee, fed the animals, dressed, found Help, Thanks, Wow, got to car, started off.  Then driver didn’t have address of radio station an hour away and my internet is out but went home, back inside, found address, and now safely in car, with coffee, talking to you, and NO traffic.  So all three prayers swirling together– Help!  Thanks!  Wow.

I do not know much about God and prayer, but I have come to believe, over the past twenty-five years, that there’s something to be said about keeping prayer simple.

Help. Thanks. Wow.

You may in fact be wondering what I even mean when I use the word “prayer.” It’s certainly not what TV Christians mean. It’s not for display purposes, like plastic sushi or neon. Prayer is private, even when we pray with others. It is communication from the heart to that which surpasses understanding. Let’s say it is communication from one’s heart to God. Or if that is too triggering or ludicrous a concept for you, to the Good, the force that is beyond our comprehension but that in our pain or supplication or relief we don’t need to define or have proof of or any established contact with. Let’s say it is what the Greeks called the Really Real, what lies within us, beyond the scrim of our values, positions, convictions, and wounds. Or let’s say it is a cry from deep within to Life or Love, with capital L’s.

bathroom left, poop box rightOne of my cats has started following me into the bathroom.

Most of the day, he sleeps under the bed, while I am on the couch.  At night, we switch.  As I see it, I respect his territory and he respects mine, with only minimal crossover for such necessary exchanges as food-in-bowl and pet-on-head (he is, after all, a “good kitty”).  But now, oddly, he insists on watching me poop.

“I thought we had an understanding,” I say, knees pressed together in reflexive embarrassment.  “You know…you do your thing and I do mine.  What’s with this?” I make a little noise like a toy-gun to spook him off. It doesn’t.

“Mrrow,” he says, and saunters over, finding my huddled knees as good a place as ever before to sidle up against.

“Cat, this is very unlike you. You never like me. And it’s not like I…”  And it dawns on me.  I watch him poop.

One of them has been pooping on the carpet.  I haven’t been able to figure out which one.  All I know is at night the carpet is clean and sometime in the night, with all the mystery and silence of Santa Clause, a little present is left for me.  What’s amazing is, it’s always left in the same place: three infuriating feet to the left of the damn litter box. Never two feet, never four. That’s poop left, litter-box right: it’s like when your GPS is out of sync and a casual drive down the coast shows you a hundred feet west, driving in the water.

Now I stalk the poopers.  I stay up late at night, later and later. I’m on their time now, waiting for the sound of kitty paws on artificial gravel.  When one of the cats walks down the hall, I wait and listen.  I creep around the corner, shielding my eyes from the ambient light to keen my senses.

Tonight, it’s the fat one in the box.  Good ol’ fat one. (This is the same cat who, after first moving in, would find his way into my girlfriend’s underwear drawer. There he would lie for hours, a true predator. Eight a.m. would bring a scream, and I’d rise just in time to see gravity defied by fur, his paws outstretched, no doubt intending a kill. I was endeared to him then.)

I watch him poop, making sure it wasn’t a trick. I watch for twitches. I watch for silence. He sees me and is unmoved.  I nod, acknowledging him. He is not the carpet pooper. He sits there, proudly, little head upright, the dignity of a prince, and pierces me with his repose like a general standing tall in surrender.

And now he follows me into the bathroom to watch, and I can’t blame him. I would close the door, but it seems a little sad since nobody else is around but the cats. And even that is a little sad. I never wanted to be a cat person: they’re the ones you hear stories about. I’ve seen James Bond, and the most evil of villains, the most twisted, always has a cat curled up in his lap. They are as one.

But that’s not me and the fat one. We respect each other’s territory. Maybe being a cat person just means respecting where the other one poops.

He really is a good kitty.*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Someone, please help. Spot, “The Fat One,” has had me cornered for two days writing flattering cat stories. Even now, as I type this, he has a paw to my throat. His English is poor but his meowing is clear. I don’t have much time. Send dogs.