Life's not fair


Matt Paust

Matt Paust
Gloucester, Virginia,
December 31
Sorry - writer's block... BTW the "birthday" listed above is false. I prefer to keep that day private, but am not permitted to do so here, so I'm forced to lie.


JULY 14, 2011 2:04PM

Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon

Rate: 26 Flag
Payback is a motherfucker.  That's Armyspeak for a certain kind of Karma.  I considered using it as the title of this piece, but demurred after deciding what I'm trying to work out here is too complicated for so simple an answer.  The Culture Club lyrics aren't quite right, either, but I deferred to them after the tune snuck in as I was mulling, and it didn't seem to want to leave.

What prompts this unlikely introspective is a convergence of events both recent and old that pushed up in awful symmetry as I read two masterful essays on OS this morning.   Diluted salt stung my eyes at the conclusion of Bellwether Vance's eloquently tortured eulogy to a difficult pet in Goodbye Girl, and Jerry DeNuccio's inspired discussion of Prayer tugged away the snarky mask I often wear to fool myself.  

I'm grieving.  A number things.  Worst of all, I broke my wife's heart Friday night.  I screamed at her as we stood in our flooded basement.  I cursed.  I cursed the shit we'd accumulated in our eighteen years as a family, blaming her for adding to the piles of boxes filled with god knows what choking the narrow aisles that remained.  I told her to shut the fuck up and leave me alone when she reminded me much of the shit stacked against one wall was mine and asked me, loudly, to tell her just what stuff she was "always buying" that kept the basement piles growing. 

What made it worse was that our daughter was down there with us and her brother and his girlfriend, all witnesses to my unjustified fury. I quickly shut the fuck up myself, knowing I'd already gone too far, that I'd shattered something precious in our lives beyond recovery.  I clamped off my voice, but rage still boiled inside. 

That was Friday.  The day before, I buried what I presumed was Kelly, our teenaged cat, the most difficult of our eight cats.   It was her two back feet that convinced me the reeking skeletal remains crushed flat in the muddy, gravel lane just past our driveway was the cat we'd taken in within a year or two of our marriage after the couple she'd been living with died in a fire that destroyed their home. 

I'd joke that Kelly'd somehow burned the house down out of sheer meanness, which wasn't fair because she was mean only to our other cats.  To us she was too affectionate.  I have video of Kelly flying Kellyrepeatedly out of my wife's garden while my wife was bent among the beans and squash, picking and weeding, or, rather, trying to pick and weed as the damned cat kept appearing at her feet, purring manically and brushing back and forth incessantly against her ankles.    

Earlier in the week our daughter had discovered the bloated feline corpse and agonized it might be her cat, Comet, who'd been missing a day or two, as was its wont.  I watched from a window as daughter and mother stared at something in the lane, daughter waving her arms as if at something further off, and then both returned to the house.  They'd concluded with intense hope the dead cat was a stray we'd seen in the neighborhood recently.  Comet's magical return later that day confirmed this to their satisfaction.

I wasn't so certain.  I feed our cats every morning and evening on the  deck.  Kelly, who had never missed a meal, hadn't shown up for breakfast that morning, nor for supper.  Next morning, with Kelly still a no-show, I found a cardboard box, lined it with an old towel, donned a pair of nitrile gloves and trudged down to the lane.  My thought was that any dead cat on or near our land deserved a decent burial.   I wouldn't have tried to identify the skeleton's back paws in an animal warden's lineup, but something about them the instant I saw them pierced my heart.  She's buried in the grove of crape myrtles next to Junior, who died last fall.  They'd been our two oldest cats, our Deuteronomy twins.  

Back to my rage.  My rage at Mother Nature.  Yeah, that bitch.  I didn't deserve the one-two punch she dealt last weekend.   I recycle.  I'm as green as I can be without being an asshole about it.   I buried the damned cat.  Christ, I keep dedicated jars around the house for catching insects and arachnids, which I release unharmed outside where they belong.  I kill flies and mosquitos, but that's it.  Mother Nature.  I always called her "Mom."  Why me, goddammit? 

The idiot who designed our house failed to grade the driveway to direct rainwater away from the house.  We'd moved from a house in the lowlands after Hurricane Isabel came within a milimeter of flooding us out.  We soon learned that sustained heavy rainfall would gleefully rush into our garage and dance on into our adjoining basement. 

My wife wanted to fix this by regrading the driveway.  I opted for a sump pump beneath the entrance to the garage with a buried pipe leading to the neighbor's woods.  The pump/pipe option was half the cost.  My wife reluctantly trusted my judgment that the pump/pipe solution was trustworthy.  It was.  We got through two summers, each with heavy rains, without a drop of unwanted water in garage or basement.  The pump worked like a dream, a happy dream until it turned nightmare Friday night.

Too much rain.  Unrelenting rain on top of an accumulation of rainfall over the previous week.  In the height of Friday night's fright I staggered through the deluge to the edge of the woods, trusting the strobing lightning wouldn't find me.  The continual barrage of thunder overwhelmed the pump's dutiful mumbling so I couldn't be sure it was pumping.  I bent down and saw the water rushing out of the pipe, and I cursed anew.  Nothing was blocking it.  It was simply too goddam much water too fast. 

There were two smaller, portable sump pumps in the garage I'd used before installing the bigger permanent one.   They weren't hooked up to hoses.  Useless.  They'd have handled the extra water.  They're hooked up now.  I don't trust Mother Nature anymore.  She fucked me.  Fucked my marriage.  Goddam bitch.

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I'm afraid to comment, I'll just say I hope things get better and take my leave!
Acknowledgemnt of unfair rage is a great start. Sometime events conspire to make us lash out and act out of character . We all are vulnerable to terrible times and bad behaviors. Context is everything. I'm just rambling now, but I bet your family will forgive you. Mother nature is craaazy and I don't trust her. Bitches are bad.
Sorry about the STRESSES and the loss of two dear old timer cats. Very well written, Matt.
You have a fellow sufferer here. With not one but two floods in my basement last month, I was reduced to a sniveling heap. My husband is disabled and I had no one to help me until I begged my friends to help me with a bucket brigrade. Hundreds of dollars of tools were down there. My daughter just returned from NYC and is coming to see me tomorrow and I have to tell her that her artist's portfolio was among the casualties. You had a double whammy with the loss of your pet. I am sorry and hope you will be forgiven. Me, too.
She loves you so she will forgive you. She may smack you upside the head with a frying pan, which would be warrented, but she will forgive you. Get those grovel pants on and wear them well, my friend.
Damn page wouldn't take my rating so I had to come back and try again.
I know it's a bitch but I'm just so relieved that this had nothing at all to do with Boy George.
Mother Nature is most definitely in charge. I'm sorry for your pain, Matt.
Wife and husband yelling at each other? In my house, that's called a day ending in -y.

My sympathies on the flooding and condolences on the cat.

BTW, you always did remind me of Boy George.
Oh my goodness. You've got a lot going on. I'm sorry about your cat. We've been dealing with water leaks and other home repairs too. I've used the "F" word more than once.
Well, I'm pissed at you now for letting Boy George back into my head.
I too have blurted out things I wished I hadn't. I'm a huge believer in apology. Sincere, loving, and humble apology. It will be okay. ~r
Yeah, sometimes, we blow up and those around us are the ones caught in the explosion. It'll be okay, she hasn't killed you yet, right?

Right? Hello Matt?

Damn, ah well, I hear that grove of trees is nice. Right next to the cats, like he always said he wanted to be buried. He'll run out of oxygen too, so the scraping and screaming will stop...~Weeping~ :D
Screaming at whoever's near (or at the universe, if alone) is natural for many of us. Hopefully all will be forgiven - and the basement cleared out. (Storage should be done in attics, BTW.)
Sorry, Matt; no one deserves so much crap to fall so fast and accummulate so deeply, but it happens, and there's simply no damn protective circle we can draw around ourselves to immunize ourselves from it. You've written about it, written about it very, very, well, and maybe (or maybe not) that's a beginning to restore some order. Regret isn't an especially good thing to feel, but it is positive, I think: it indicates a sense of having done something wrong. I have a colleague, a philosopher, who will, in, say a heated deabte, say, "I'm beginning to feel angry, so I'm going to stop talking and step out for a moment to cool down." I've tried to adopt that practice, and I do use the memory of Little League I wrote about, but, darn, the flesh is weak sometimes. I hope all goes well for you, your wife, and your daughter.
She will forgive you. I don't know if I can because now I have that awful song in my head! I'm sorry about your cat and your basement and your run in with Mother Nature. (And thanks for the kind words about my piece.)
:/ who hasn't been there? People at work think i'm soft spoken bwwwahahaahah. Karen and I screaming at each other just means we are both in the house together. And I am very sorry about the passing of one of your babies. It's so hard and wrenching to lose one.
:::tiptoeing across the room so as not to enrage Cranky, er, I mean Matt...
I agree with the whole apology thing. Do you feel a tiny bit better not that you've purged?
:::tiptoeing across the room so as not to enrage Cranky, er, I mean Matt...
I agree with the whole apology thing. Do you feel a tiny bit better now that you've purged?
Oh Matt, I know who you want to scream and swear at. "Worst of all, I broke my wife's heart Friday night." Well, as long as you only beat yourself up for a day or two it will be alright. She'll forgive you, just make sure you forgive you too.

I'm really sorry about Kelly, I remember how hard it was for you with Junior. I've never trusted Mother Nature but I trust you.
Sometimes love means still loving you even after you've made a damned jackass out of yourself. She'll always love you--just as you love her.
Hitman Two! Word from the C.G. is to maintain our cool. Maintaining a grooming standard is mission critical. There's been a change in the R.O.E. We are not to engage POGs. You started it, Bubba. R
Day at a time, Matt. Each one is precious, even the awful ones.
"To err is human, to forgive divine."
I am sorry for your loss and your troubles; and wish you well.
Scanman, that comment infuriates me, but I'll let it go – this time. Thanks, buddy.

Thanks, Fernsy. I know better. I know the mental tricks Jerry talks about in his post today and they usually work for me. I'm weakest late at night when I'm tired. I was exhausted. It's still no excuse. Dammit.

Miguela, you know you have my sympathy. Hell, you have my empathy. I try to make light of it by saying when it rains it pours, but that isn't helping right now. Good luck, and thanks for your commiseration.

Got the pants on, Tor. Meek as a lamb. She's slow to come around when I pull a boner like this one. Yeah, it's happened before. Try as I might, I'm not the mellowest fellow in the room.

Aw, c'mon, Bob. The Boy wasn't all that bad. Well... Ya, know, if you could find a Willie Nelson cover of Karma Karma..., it might help wash out the version that's been tormenting me all day.

Much obliged, Maurene. I'm ashamed of myself. Writing this helped me see it in a clearer light, with a little humor to help mitigate the awfulness. I've always respected Nature. Only a fool doesn't.

Thank you, Sweetfeet. I've come to realize this place, OS, is my church. I feel better having shared this misfortune with friends.

Cranky, I knew I shoulda gone with the other title.

Christina! No “F” word on my blog...wait, what?

Joanie, I'm pissed at myself for letting that damned tune grab hold of me. That's Karma.

Tink, I keep a long plastic drinking straw with me at all times for just that possibility. So long as I can breathe I can figure a way out. I think I can I think I can I think I can...

Myriad, every space in the house hosts stuff. I'd call most of it junk, but I'm on my best behavior at the moment.

Jer, your post today helped me see the need to get this out, tell it to friends. I feel as if a weight has lifted off me.

I wept for Millie, Bell, and suddenly thought of Kelly. Thanks, dear, and please, please forgive me, some day, please. ;-|

Julie, don't you EVER scream at me like that. Unless, of course, I have it coming to me. At the moment, I probly do. Thanks for your kind words.

I do, Schmoop, I do, indeed. No need to tiptoe. Thanks for braving the dragon.

Doris, thank goodness somebody trusts me. At the moment it's hard for me to believe anyone can. Thank you.

Walter, I sure as hell hope so. Thanks.

No I didn't, Thoth, but I should have been able to hold up to it. I lost my cool. I'd love to have kept it a secret, but I feel better now, sharing it with you guys.

They are, Lea. Too often we forget. Thanks for the reminder.

Wise words, Fusun. Thanks for your kind ones.
I am so sorry about the cat, the basement, all of this. As for the argument, I know that your wife must love you and I'm sure that she'll forgive you. I snapped at my boyfriend for eating a personal pan pizza I'd been saving - at least you had a bigger reason for getting upset. I think just give it time, and, even better, if you can, try telling your wife you're sorry. I bet she doesn't want to be in an argument, especially considering all that's going on right now. Sending good thoughts to you, as I'm sure the cat you buried so respectfully is, as well.
"every day is like survival, you're my lover not my rival" - The Boy has it right
Jeez, nothing blocking the brilliance of your writing either. Your first paragraph hooked me and, like the a good drug, sucked me in. I'm so sorry for the loss of Kelly, my sympathy amplified by my empathy for a man who appreciates all life (bar mosquitoes and ?). You make me feel better about my marital fuck-ups. Thank you. Nothing quite as powerful as a sincere "I'm sorry" to begin repair, the test of all good marriages.
Alysa and Matt: Personal Pan Pizzas are PERSONAL. Other pizzas are SHARED. hee hee. Hope you and the wife are lovey dovey out there.
Cat funerals are so sad. Flooded basements can sometimes be a blessing in disguise tho because you get to get rid of some stuff. I really hate stuff. I would like to live with just a laptop and a backpack. I think that vision is going to be real in the near future. Too much stuff in the world. I think that is what that bitch Mother Nature is trying to tell us.
Kate - Boy George sure had a hook with that song, didn't he? Glad he's cleaned up and still performing.

Thanks, Alysa. I apologized, of course, but I'm still in the penalty box. Deservedly.

Daman, I never really listened to the lyrics before, but you're right, he nailed it.

Maria, your words are healing. Flesh can be weak, indeed. Our world surely could use a little more grace.

Fernsy, working on it. Nothing worthwhile is easy, tho, as you well know, altho a break now and then is more than welcome. Hang strong out there.
Big electronic hug for ya buddy.
Our flood happened when the sump pump died, and I dropped the ball in getting it fixed. Wasn't happy around here either.
What can I say, Matt? We all fuck up, and yes, the payback is always a motherfucker. Hang in there, Matt, and find a way to forgive yourself and Mother Nature.