Piebald, the so-called feral cat, taking a breath on the back deck last summer. Course correction to understand what he needs me to do now. . .

True confession: I am a creature of routine. Every day I work off a schedule- -blocks of time lined out for writing, appointments and chores, the types of exercise I’ll do, and, back in the day, social events. Most days I stay on schedule and get it all done. Every so often, though, an out-of-control day will leap off the neatly detailed page and blow my plans to bits. This is called Life. When Life takes charge in a positive and pleasing way I happily go with the flow and defer my plans. But when Life gets my attention by throwing up obstacles I go through all kinds of negative emotional gyrations. This Wednesday was such a day. After getting kicked around by Life one time too many, I gritted my teeth, made a course correction and clawed my way back topside.


It wasn’t easy.


You’re telling me! You were getting pretty nutso.

Yeah, and you were kind of being a baby, too.


Lily, 9, I can always count on the two of you. One of the telltale signs of Life getting nasty is when I forget about my inner fourteen- and nine-year-old selves. I didn’t realize I’d lapsed until later that day. . .


Wednesday was supposed to be routine, with a tiny bit of excitement because the piano tuner was coming in the morning. Both of us were masked, of course, and I worked in a different room while he was here- -research reading for book four of my series. Thinking about my books made me cross- -I’d ordered 50 copies of book three, “Beyond Big-G City,” which were supposed to have arrived the day before but hadn’t. This, in turn, reminded me that a prescription had not been ready the day before, either. I’d have to sit in the drive through line at the pharmacy again today while seemingly everyone ahead of me took forever having a COVID test- –


One irritated thought piled on another, with a twist! A warning sign, perhaps?


Sure, Lily, when I’m thinking straight. But I hadn’t showered yet and I hadn’t had time to do Nordic Track and I was meeting my walking partner later that morning. The forecast: 25 to 30 knot winds with gusts up to 60. All I’d managed to do so far was eat breakfast, give Friday his weekly sub-Q, and read a couple of hours about the life of a U. S. Secretary of State. I couldn’t see past walking for an hour in high wind, couldn’t picture getting any of the other stuff on my list getting done. I’d fall far and irrevocably behind on everything I wanted to do with the rest of my life!


Uhm, maybe you were over-reacting a little bit?


Definitely, 9. Otherwise, I might have realized then and there that I needed to make a- –


Course correction.


Ugh! It drives me nuts when you both talk at the same time.


So, we survived our walk with a terrific tailwind on the eastern leg and a perilous headwind returning west that made us stagger like drunks (at a six-foot distance). On the way home I gritted my teeth and turned the Subaru toward Rite Aid. Only three cars in line, so I tacked onto the end. My advance was slow, though not glacial. At the window, after reeling off my name and date of birth I was told once again that the prescription wasn’t ready.


“But the person who helped me yesterday said it would be. And your automated system said it would be ready two days ago! I know it’s not your fault, personally, but. . .”


The woman on the other side of the glass said she’d hand expedite it and make sure it got filled that day. She also put my cell number in their computer system so they could call when it was ready. It seemed like progress but my heart burrowed under a cloud of suspicion. I thanked her for making the effort and drove away.


Next stop, the pet food store. I had a problem at home that I wasn’t sure how to solve, a cat whose symptoms (which I will not detail here because they are so gross) indicated malabsorption of food. This can be caused by simple things or terrible things.


The cat, Piebald, is in late middle age. Though he’s been part of the family since 2011 and now spends most of his time in the house, he is still enough of a feral that he will not let me touch him. I was hoping a change to a lower fat diet would ease his symptoms. Honestly, I was wildly hoping that it would fix the whole problem because if it didn’t I’d have to catch him in the Havahart trap to get him to the vet. Plus, once he is diagnosed, chances are good I won’t be able to treat him since he only tolerates human touch when he is sedated.


Is that all?


Thanks, Lily, I can always count on you for sarcasm. The pet food store lady- -after listening to my detailed story that I hated to say out loud because that made it true- -gently said I should take Piebald to the vet and kindly gave me some samples of low fat cat kibble.


At last I was on my way home.


But you wanted to yell and cry and quit, all at the same time.


I certainly did, 9. For a while I walked in circles, then realized it was past 2 PM and I hadn’t eaten lunch. I ate something but food didn’t calm my agitated state of mind. I still had to do a half-hour of Nordic Track. And the books hadn’t arrived yet. And the prescription wasn’t filled. I sat down, took a breath, and called the vet. At last I understood: worry about Piebald’s condition was what had propelled me down the rabbit hole: I was afraid of what I’d learn. I was afraid there wouldn’t be anything I could do to help him.


Talking to the vet tech, describing Piebald’s symptoms, his feral state, his age, and other factors, she said they’d really need to do blood work on him to figure out what was driving the malabsorption. He’d need sedation in order for them to get a blood draw. After all that, if they could recommend treatment I probably wouldn’t be able to administer it. “Your decision” said the vet tech. So.


I decided having the information would be better than working blind on Piebald’s issues. If possible, I want know what’s going on with him and what to expect as it unfolds. He has a “drop off” appointment on Tuesday (their first available opening), if I can catch him. Simply talking to someone knowledgeable about his problem and making a plan made me feel much better. I’d taken charge of a hard situation, made the course correction that had been evading me all day.


Relieved but emotionally exhausted, I got on the Nordic Track and remembered- -Lily and 9 were here, too. I joyously called out “9!” when we hit nine minutes and “Lily!” at fourteen minutes. A call came in during our workout, a recorded message from the pharmacy saying my prescription was ready. After I’d showered and was heading back to the pharmacy, I found two boxes on my front porch- -the books!

Beyond Big-G City

50 copies of “Beyond Big-C City”! Courtesy of Life and a needed course correction.

I believe in magic enough to believe that facing my fears about Piebald and making the needed course correction unblocked the other things that Life had stuck in Limbo.


Can we do something fun now?


Yes please, 9. After all, it’s nearly the weekend. TGIF, with feeling!

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