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Ms. Delicate

18 Sep Quesadilla Sunday. Based on my sickly complexion and generally offensive expression, it's likely that this was my last-ever Quesadilla Sunday.

I am hands down the worst person to take on a date. Not only am I morally opposed to chain restaurants and establishments under a 99% health rating, but I require a menu diverse enough to accommodate my dietary restriction du jour. It’s no secret that I’m picky. But — a true rationalizer through and through — I believe that I am picky in a good way. Picky in a way that prevents me or any of my loved ones from eating at questionable restaurants or, God forbid, at a Cheesecake Factory.

If you knew me as a child, my current state of judginess would shock you. I grew up with a particular fondness for bologna and my favorite restaurant (using the term a little loosely here) was Taco Bell. Yes, Taco Bell. “Two soft chicken tacos no tomatoes” was a phrase heard all-too often in my household. At one point it was even my birthday dinner of choice.

So what happened, you ask? When did I turn from a Taco Bell lovin’ gal to a completely unqualified food critic? The first–and certainly most memorable turning point–happened when a girl at elementary school carpool told me that Taco Bell meat was actually dog food (an early whistle blower, if you ask me). As this girl had more LTD2 outfits than I had pet rats, I considered her an authority on all things important, and so I began to more thoroughly inspect my food for signs of foreign elements, including–but certainly not limited to–kibble. I began to question ingredients, food preparation and sanitary guidelines, and I no longer yearned for my favorite breakfast: the Hampton Inn continental buffet.

The red flags followed me well into my young adult life (the Mad Cow scare of the early 2000s, a live butterfly in my sister’s pre-packaged salad, Food, Inc., etc.), all culminating in one completely life-altering moment that set me over the edge: my first job as a server. I’ll spare the details, but it was at that moment I realized that I was truly alone in this world. No one shared my steadfast commitment to frequent and vigorous hand-washing, and no one understood the importance of cleaning lemons.

I should also note that at some point between my Taco Bell days and now, I became a vegetarian of sorts. I say, “of sorts” because I’m actually a pescetarian, but that just sounds way too pretentious. Now, I have nothing against meat eaters. Clearly, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of meat. And dog food, it would seem. And if a pepperoni were to sneak its way into my mouth, I wouldn’t throw a fit. It’s happened before. And–considering I once broke a tooth while demolishing a slice of Goodfellas– it will probably happen again.

But here’s the problem (yes, there’s more). Without painting too vile a picture, I can say that my digestive system is something akin to Mel Gibson –unstable and inflammatory. It’s not a new issue — I once went to the ER with a suspected case of appendicitis, only to come home with a formal diagnosis of gas. But since college, I’ve been plagued with an array of stomach pains and problems that have truly infringed on my quality of life, most notably on my favorite weekend pastime, Quesadilla Sunday. My doctor diagnosed me with IBS so, I kid you not, my chart now reads, “Anxiety, asthma, IBS” (I’m a catch, to be sure).

Quesadilla Sunday. Based on my sickly complexion and generally offensive expression, it's likely that this was my last-ever Quesadilla Sunday.

Quesadilla Sunday. Based on my sickly complexion and generally offensive appearance, it’s likely that this was my last-ever Quesadilla Sunday.

A few months ago, I decided it was time to do something about digestive misgivings. And–with at least one Pure Barre class under my belt–I felt I was ready to go full-on aristocrat and diagnose myself with gluten intolerance. Now, I realize that unless you’re a 40-something-year old white woman, you’re thinking that “gluten intolerance” is totally BS. And you’re probably right. But can you blame me if I want to have a backhand like Djokovic? Or abs like Bill Clinton? Or, at the very least, the ability to enjoy an afternoon without writhing in pain?

If you’re keeping count of my confessions, you’ll now know me to be a germaphobe, vegetarian, gluten-free* date with incredibly high-standards. To say that I am “delicate” is an understatement, as my frailty extends to all aspects of my life. Particularly traveling. Perhaps one day I’ll blog about how difficult it is to take me on a car trip. Or on a vacation, for that matter. But as I’ve now revealed my somewhat embarrassing health record, I think I’ll leave my soul bearing at this for the time being.

*After months of living on hard cider and overpriced ginger beer, I decided my love for beer (and pizza, when I’ve had too many beers) outweighed my desire to live up to a Gwyneth-like standard of gluten freedom. So I’m now drinking beer (and eating pizza, when I’ve had too many beers). It’s all very scientific. I wouldn’t expect you to understand.

For the Game of Throners

3 Jun

Spoiler alert! This post includes spoilers for Game of Thrones and, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, Harry Potter.

I have a bone to pick with Game of Thrones readers. Or, as I’m sure they’ve already jumped to correct me, with “A Song of Ice and Fire readers.”

Sunday night, after witnessing what can only have been the most traumatic, gruesome and aesthetically elaborate death scene in the history of time, I made the mistake of checking Twitter to see how my fellow Game of Throners were reacting. But instead of finding comfort and solace in the mutual grieving of my peers, I found a steady stream of horrid remarks from diehard Game of Throne readers (fine, f*@cking Song of Ice and Fire readers!)

As it turns out, those who read the books many years ago were rejoicing in the fact that we simple-minded HBO folk had stumbled upon a horrifying truth they’d known to be true for many years — that Prince Oberyn Martell, the arguably best (looking) person in Kings Landing, was doomed. With tears streaming down my face and into my goblet of Malbec, I read tweet after tweet from these people who were mocking – and even reveling in – my shock and despair. Really? Is it not enough that my heart has been shattered into a million pieces? And that, should my depression progress, I now know what it would sound like to explode? Is it not completely and utterly gut-wrenching that I’ll never again peacefully enjoy a Bells Oberon* Ale? Or chin straps? Or grapes?

To these people, I say shame on you. With such a feeble upper body and inherent asthmatic disadvantage, I am not one who would normally pick a fight. But (from behind the comfort of my computer), I am compelled to put my foot down this once.

I am allowed to enjoy the HBO series, Game of Thrones. I am allowed to cry, to mourn, to scream and sometimes, to exhibit mentally unstable behavior when one of my favorite characters is killed off. 

Visibly shaken from Game of Thrones and FaceTiming with my boyfriend who, bless his heart, does his best to sooth me.

Visibly shaken from Game of Thrones and FaceTiming with my boyfriend who, bless his heart, does his best to soothe me.

It’s true. I did not swing from the womb reciting Dothrakian poetry, nor am I able to screenprint a map Westeros with my left buttocks. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy and appreciate one of the greatest (albeit craziest) TV productions of our generation. Seriously, what’s the harm?

Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid reader. In fact, I am currently reading the Song of Ice and Fire series (aha! I am your equal!) Yes, you got to it before me, but can I not still enjoy it? Can I not discover the books on my own even though (GASP!) they’re suddenly trendy?

I’ll compare it to this: When I run into someone who hasn’t read the Harry Potter series, I am certainly taken aback by their poor judgment and complete disregard for fine literature (really, who doesn’t like Harry Potter?). But I am nonetheless encouraging. “You have to read the books!” I tell them. “They’re so much better than the movies!” I gush. I want them to experience Harry Potter and love it as much as I do (which I’ll admit sounds super creepy as I’m re-reading this). And yet in all my years of diehard Harry Potter fandom, never once did I find joy in watching movie-goers who hadn’t read the books realize a character’s unlucky fate. Sure, I knew it was coming, but I didn’t point and laugh at them when Dumbledore died. Or worse, when Hedwig died. I didn’t scoff at their tears when they realized that Snape, who they’d come to hate for years, turned out to be Harry’s greasy guardian angel. If anything, I comforted them. I cried with them, mourned with them. I welcomed them into my wizarding world with open arms and a slightly uncomfortable attempt at a smile. It is my way.

So while I realize this is a bit of an angry post (I’ll blame the Malbec), and that this insensitive behavior doesn’t come from all longtime “Song of Ice and Fire” readers, I needed to get it off my chest. George R.R. Martin is an incredibly creative, twisted and talented author with one of the most impossibly imaginative minds of our time. And his work is for all of us to enjoy.

*Yes, I realize the actual spelling of his name is Prince Oberyn.

A Walk in the Park

1 Jun

As I alluded to in my previous post, I was once an athlete. A field hockey player, to be exact.

joannaclark.wordpress.com

A pretty accurate visual representation of my field hockey career.

I realize that most people find this hard to believe as these days, my athletic endeavors are limited to chasing stray cats in my boyfriend’s backyard and the occasional lawn-mow (as illustrated in the photo below). In my defense, I recently gave team sports another shot. But after every tennis team I joined suspiciously “dissolved,” I decided that perhaps I’d better make a lasting transition into individual sports. So, I decided to get into running.

joannaclark.wordpress.com

My lawn-mowing face.

My favorite place to run is Cherokee Park. It’s full of pups, it’s relatively kid-unfriendly, and I always know exactly where I am in relation to the nearest bathroom. A few weeks ago, I was too tired and lazy to run, so I decided to power-walk instead.

But as I began my walk, I couldn’t help but feel a bit self-conscious. The only solo walkers were elderly women and strange men who believed that khaki cargo shorts were still an acceptable item of apparel. Certainly, I can understand the appeal of a nice pair of cargos — who wouldn’t want so many convenient options for storage? I myself was a cargo proponent for the better part of a decade, but I’m also the first to concede that they are in fact an assault on the senses.

But rather than let my insecurities get the best of me, I decided to put the negative thoughts behind me and make the most out of my walk. If nothing else, it would give me an opportunity to slowly enjoy the park, to see things I’d missed while running. Suddenly, my senses felt heightened. Like I’d splurged on an afternoon latte or, like Bran Stark, I’d opened my third eye. I began to examine every passerby with great attention to detail, realizing that this made me an anthropologist and that perhaps khaki cargos were a viable option after-all. Here are my observations:

1. Toe sock runners are dangerous

With heightened senses, I heard much of the world around me. The squirrels in the bushes, the birds in heat, the androgynous bikers whizzing past me. The only thing that snuck up on me, however, were the damn runners in those toe sock shoes. As an avid crop-duster, I’m fairly attuned to the gentle pitter patter of runners approaching me from behind. But due to the lightness of their footwear and the slenderness of their girlish calves, the men wearing toe sock shoes breezed by me without so much as a peep. It was startling and, quite honestly, unfortunate for all parties involved.

2. Big Foot probably smokes pot

At one point, I rounded a corner and was confronted with the distinct, skunkish smell of marijuana. I looked deeper into the woods to find said pot-smoker and saw what could have easily passed for the Germantown version of Big Foot — a man, casually strolling amongst the trees with long, unkempt locks and what looked like the remains of a tattered linen shirt. I couldn’t see his feet, but from my experience at Forecastle, I deduced that he was likely barefoot. I made eye contact with his chest hair and felt the blood rush from my face. I remained on-edge–practicing what I hoped would come across as a casual, yet passionate iteration of “I’m no narc”–until I realized that this fellow looked strikingly similar to one of sister’s ex-boyfriends. Certainly, a former Clark lover would cause me no harm, I thought. That soothed me. And I moved on.

This is an actual picture of an actual foot that I took at Forecastle.

This is an actual picture of an actual foot that I took at Forecastle.

3. Wildlife excites me

Obviously, this comes as no surprise. But at a slower pace, I realized that I was much more apt to spot critters. At one point, I even saw a turtle breast-stroking along with the current. It was almost too much. I stopped at every bridge to see how many ducks I could count, a treat I sometimes enjoy on my walk to work. To save money, I park in a free parking lot down by the Ohio River, which, for you non-Louisvillians, is the liquid that likely inspired the popular sci-fy series, Alex Mack. The Ohio is certainly no environment for whales, but every morning, I cross my fingers and pray to God that it will be the day I see one. It’s moments like these I know I need to relocate to Seattle.

4. I’m becoming my mother.

About five minutes into my walk, I thought to myself, “This would be really wonderful if I had a book on-tape.” It was jarring. And I rather not comment on the matter any more than I already have.

And those are the four things I observed at the park. To summarize, here’s a picture of my sister and I blowing away the competition at my first mini marathon.

joannaclark.wordpress.com

Return of the Gym Rat

4 Jan

I’ve decided I’d like to get ripped. Nothing too aggressive, just something that would look nice under a spray tan.

The decision comes as a result of several recent experiences, the most horrific of which being the morning my father told me that I looked, “Broad. Like a swimmer, Jo!” While I realize that this was probably a genuine attempt at a compliment, it was nonetheless devastating. I’ve always been a bit self-conscious of my shoulders — I was an early bloomer in middle school and once ripped a shirt in half while clapping. Over the years, I’ve done my best to avoid halter tops and overcome my insecurities. I’ll admit that I’ve even made some progress. But to have my stature likened to that Michael Phelps while wearing a new tennis tank was as a real tragedy, and I was immediately obligated to rethink my entire blazer collection. (I’d like to say that my dad soon redeemed himself from such a tactless comment, but moments later, he referred to my legs as “manscular.” The man has a gift.)

Another reason I’ve decided to get ripped is because I am embarrassingly weak (yes, even with such a “manscular” physique). I came to realize this when I decided to try out the whole “Pure Barre” fad. For the record, I’m not a Barre regular. Not only are the socks alone an ungodly financial commitment, but I’m fairly certain it’s an underground trafficking system for tennis bracelets and Lululemon. However, I was given the opportunity to attend a free class and, never one to turn down a freebie other than communal snacks, I decided to give it a shot.

I arrived at the studio in my trendiest yoga pants and thickest, most expensive pair of socks. I’d heard there was a barefoot component to the class, and I wasn’t taking any chances with potential skin-to-mat contact (ringworm is out there, and it’s only a matter of time before CrossFit sparks a worldwide epidemic). We began the class with a warm up, during which I was unable to complete a full push up. Red Flag Number One. Then, 10 minutes into the first routine, all of my cynical notions of the “Barre method” were completely debunked — that shit is hard. While the women around me were gracefully “pulsing” and “tucking” their “seats,” I was convulsing on the floor, grinning and clenching like a gassy old man. It was mortifying. I was physically unable to lift myself to a proper “tucking” position, so I instead used my free time to survey the crowd — Barre women are a breed all their own, and I was eager to observe them.

I looked around at my exceptionally flexible classmates, using the undercover creepy eye I honed in college, and quickly realized why people paid big bucks for the Barre method. The women were ripped. And I mean seriously cut. Before that moment, I’d only seen arms that sculpted on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, a physical achievement I imagined to be made possible by tricks of lighting and expensive bronzer. But there they were, the arms of my dreams, flexing and “pulsing” before my very eyes! It was breathtaking. More than once, I tried to compare biceps in the mirror, but it useless — I was clearly the runt of the bunch, a travesty that no amount of self tanner could correct.

A young, stylish dog-whisperer. You'll notice my bowl-cut, as well.

“A Bowl-Cut and Bones.” People often referred to me as a style icon of my time.

Needless to say, I haven’t been back to Pure Barre. Neither my muscles, my ego, nor my wallet could handle a second appearance. I’ve never felt so weak, and I’ve since spent a substantial amount of time researching Shake Weights. In my defense, I’ve never been a particularly strong girl. Sure, I was fast at one point — but that was back in my youth when I was nothing but a bowl-cut and bones. Back when I was a swimmer, and all it took was some desperate flailing and a packet of Fun Dip to propel my lithe, boyish figure to first place. 

Now that I’m a mature woman of 25, I need more than an adventurous creek walk or rigorous talent show practice to maintain my shape. While I can always lean on a strategically applied spray tan to fudge some muscle definition, will that help in the long run? Will it further my dream of becoming a music video celebutante? Or perhaps most importantly, will it prepare my feeble biceps for the heft of an adult cat? I think not. And as I plan to groom the largest cat in the clowder during my first week as an official Humane Society volunteer, I cannot risk physical inferiority. If he’s to truly respect me, I must first assert myself as his queen.

So, these are the reasons that I’ve decided to start working out again. My first goal is to build enough definition to fill out a muscle tank, as I now look a bit like a house elf in them.

How I look in muscle tanks

How I look in muscle tanks

And with that stunning visual in mind, I hereby declare that it’s time to reinstate my forehead vein and revisit my career as a Gym Rat. Below is the proof.

The Silver Fox

12 Sep

Nearly one month away from my 25th year of life, I’m discovering some interesting things about myself. About my aging, to be exact. A particularly depressing revelation occurred about a week or so ago. I’d say it was the worst one I’ve had yet, but earlier this year, my mom asked me if I “did Botox.”  That would be the worst. However, something horrible happened recently that painfully confirmed my rapidly waning youth: my first gray hair.

The proof is in the pudding.

The proof is in the pudding.

A coworker spotted it one morning as we were talking in my office. It couldn’t have been hard to do — the bastard was sticking straight up from my scalp, waving in the AC draft like the white flag of my surrendering youth. To this day, the visual is still unsettling.

After somewhat awkwardly asking her to remove it from my head, we delved into an almost mathematical rationalization of all the things this could be other than a gray hair. We blamed my highlights (which I’ve never had), my potential “scalp birth mark,” and the small pharmacy of hair pills I’m taking to outgrow my Thomas Jeffersonesque bob. Perhaps I’d been particularly stressed out at work, or had a shocking, life-altering moment, she suggested. Almost instantly, I thought of the night I watched the “Red Wedding,” a night so dark and lonely I can scarcely bare to think of it. Certainly, this was life-alerting, but could it have been enough of a trauma to catapult me into early menopause?

My reaction to the Red Wedding. And yes, I had to blur some of the more unsuitable language.

My reaction to the Red Wedding. And yes, I had to blur some of the more unsuitable language.

Since the initial spotting, I’ve done a lot of self-reflecting. Who am I, really? Am I an adult, or a post-grad? I don’t feel like an adult, and I definitely don’t feel old enough to sprout a gray hair. Yes, I boast some elderly qualities, such as my scary witch hands and sensitivity to air quality alerts, but I’m also pretty sure there’s a Wet Seal tube-top still floating around in my top drawer.

The truth is, I am in an awkward stage of life. And as a generally awkward individual, this would seem a natural place for me. But it’s not. Adult life has proven to be as exciting and rewarding as it is uncomfortable and scary (the most uncomfortable moment being when I accidentally said “in fart of” instead of “in front of” during a client meeting.) But although the amount of math involved is far beyond my remedial abilities, and I’ve found myself, on more than one occasion, sobbing hysterically during episodes Downton Abbey, I’m excited for what’s to come in my new-found adult life. 

Wet-Seal tube-top circa 2008

Wet-Seal tube-top circa 2008

The Internet is officially creepy.

20 Jan

I have been called “creepy” on more than one occasion. Perhaps it is because I’m incapable of smiling like a normal person, fantasize about spray-tanning my boyfriend in his sleep, and/or habitually cuddle with a stuffed animal replica of my cat.

Creepy Exhibit A

Creepy Exhibit A

But regardless of my creepy tendencies, I am sad to report that I was officially “out-creeped” this month when an unauthorized photo of me went viral.

Exhibit B: Buster and Buster having a moment.

Creepy Exhibit B

I wrote a blog post a while ago about the strategy I use to weasel my way out of cooking, cleaning and yard-work. It is a tactic I’ve (successfully) used on my family for the last 20+ years. In fact, just last week, I proved its timeless value once again when I tricked my mom into “showing me how” to make scrambled eggs. They were delicious. Anyways, in the blog post, I included my high school senior yearbook picture and quote to prove my longtime commitment to this scheme.

Then, a few weeks ago, someone from high school informed me that a website dedicated to “daily fails” picked up my picture and was using it for an “epic yearbook quote fail.” I went to the link and saw that my yearbook picture had been pulled — completely out of context — from my blog post and used for the website’s daily post. Currently, the link has upwards of 200,000 shares and 20+ comments. Obviously, this creeps me out. While I have full intentions of reaching celebritydom at some point in my life (preferably by means of a music video), I wasn’t prepared to make my viral debut wearing a Wet Seal halter top and side-part comb-over. This was — and still is — a personal branding disaster.

After I saw the link, I began to freak out (as any normal hypochondriac would). Was Paris Hilton going to sue me? Was I going to lose my job? Was my right eye really that much bigger than my left eye? Then — as I scrambled to plan Buster’s and my exodus into obscurity — the person who sent me the link alluded to the possibility of me becoming an Internet meme. An Internet meme? Bless him — it was just the silver lining I needed. I heaved a huge sigh of relief as I realized that such a status would significantly up my chances of rubbing elbows with Grumpy Cat. It was the stuff of my dreams.

Feeling slightly better, I decided I was ready to read the comments on my picture. Big mistake. As it turns out, people were angry. Very angry. Because my picture had been pulled out of context, people deduced me to be some kind of socialite-worshiping, pathetic, aimless, sad child of “incompetent parents.” (To this, I can’t help but take offense as my parents are in fact nothing short of amazing. Weird, but amazing.) One commenter even said I was “like a 5-year old.” While I’ve never seen a 5-year-old up close (as I try to keep a minimum of 10-yards between myself and children at all times), I will take this as a tribute to my obsessive sunscreen application and rigorous moisturizer routine.

On a more serious note, my picture and quote sparked a fiery debate about immorality, government spending, my generation’s disgraceful laziness and “what’s wrong with the world today.” (Literally — according to some, am what’s wrong with the world today). I haven’t been the subject of such an attack since the mid 90s, when my own father tried to throw me out of a YMCA basketball game (I can only thank God my b-ball career isn’t on the line again this time). I scrolled through the comments, one more angry than the next, and realized that I was on the brink of becoming the poster-child of the fiscal cliff — it was as if every time I “forgot how” to clean the litter box, iron a shirt, steam some rice or reset the wireless router, I brought our country one step closer to an economic meltdown. Had I known my actions would bear such weight on the rest of the nation, I would have learned how to scramble an egg much sooner.

All joking aside, I realize that I have little room to complain. Yes, I was pissed. And yes, this was scary. But by sharing my pictures, stories and thoughts on the Internet, I am forfeiting a little piece of my privacy, and thus, the right to gripe once its been breached. Lesson learned. No more posting pictures with my name attached. However, as much as I hate to vent in my blog posts, I will say this: if you’re going to use my photos or writing for your own benefit, at least have the decency to cite my work. Or maybe even read the post that you pull something from. If nothing else, it might help you understand the concept of sarcasm.

Updated high school yearbook picture

Accidental squirrel hunting

19 Dec

 (Disclaimer: There’s a pretty gross picture in this blog post — which may or may not surprise you based on the title. Nevertheless, please proceed with caution, especially my fellow vegetarians.)

2012 has been a wild ride in terms of my interactions with animals. I’ve spit up a spider, assaulted a snake, walked a cat on a leash (finally!Taking Milo on a walkand been subject to Buster’s midnight howl-and-hump routine more times than I care to admit. Thus, it is only fitting that a few weeks ago, I truly topped off the year when I accidentally ran over a squirrel with the lawnmower.

It was late November…

I dread Sundays. If there were ever a day for me to inject myself with buckwheat, it would be Sunday, “The Lawn’s Day.” These are the days when my dad has “big plans” for me. The last time he had “big plans” for me, I ended up insulating the garage. Three months later he told me the materials we’d used were carcinogenic. I’d hardly call that quality bonding time.

Sure enough, when I pulled in the driveway that fateful Sunday morning, the garage door began to rise as if I’d triggered some sort of “Dependent Daughter” tracking device, one that monitors my whereabouts and notifies the local authorities when I’m carrying my mom’s debit card within 100 yards of a gas station. My dad then emerged from the garage, all but vibrating with chipperness in his signature head-to-toe denim outfit.

“You ready to mow today, Jo?”

“Meh,” I grunted, shielding my eyes from the blaze of his acid wash jeans.

“Well let’s go! I’ve got you all set up here!” Clearly. He was literally bouncing around the garage on his heels. I hadn’t seen him this excited since the last power outage. His frantic behavior and spastic movements reminded of a manic Carrie Mathison and I was tempted to see how he’d react to the words “green pen.”

Being the dutiful tenant that I am, I agreed to cut the grass in exchange for another day’s cable and shelter. Homeland was on that night, so I was in no position to risk eviction. Ten minutes into mowing, I approached a tree and heard a loud “POP!” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something fly out from underneath the machine. I shrugged it off as another dulled blade (one less reason for my dad to ask me to mow again), but that’s when I saw it: a squirrel thigh directly in front of the mower. A piece of tail to my right.

I screamed and shut off the ignition. Maybe it was a stick — a furry stick with paw-like growths. Maybe it was a cat toy, one that Buster had scoffed at and spitefully attempted to bury in the lawn (he doesn’t react well to inedible gifts). Feeling confident that it was all a misunderstanding, I peered over the front of the lawnmower and saw the following image:Thighs in the grass

Well, there was no denying it — I had definitely mowed over a squirrel. Its lone paw flapped in the breeze, a small reminder of the squirrel that was. I frantically searched my body for bits of squirrel debris that might have landed on exposed skin. I had a developing spray tan in the works, and I wasn’t interested in adding a fur coat to such a premature faux-glow. The thought of a botched, unintentionally tufted spray tan was just too much to handle and so I began to cry — for my tan, for the squirrel and for my soul. Sobbing, I wondered how Buster did this everyday… and then it hit me: I had just committed my first official cat act — the irreversible act that would propel me into a life of eternal Cat Ladydom. I felt like a spry young PNM again on the cusp of sorority initiation: I had no idea what I was in for, but by God, I knew it would be creepy.

There was an unfamiliar closeness to Buster brewing in my heart, as if the sacrificial squirrel had unlocked a new level of our relationship and forged a brethren of hunters. Gone were my afternoons of Real Housewives marathons and cheese quesadillas. My weekends would now consist of prowling around the backyard with Buster, stalking the slowest of squirrels and settling down for a nap within 3 feet of them (Buster’s signature hunting technique — we’re still not sure how he catches anything). We’d hunt for hours until we caught something, or until Buster’s balding forehead could take no more sun.

This is how Buster hunts. Believe it or not, he catches quite a few critters. We call it the Opossum Effect.

This is how Buster hunts. Believe it or not, he catches quite a few critters. We call it the Opossum Effect.

My dad, alarmed at the sound of my non-laboring, jerked me back to reality by yelling out the window, “What’s wrong?”

“I ran over a squirrel leg!” I yelled.

“Squirrels don’t have eggs!”

“No. I ran over a squirrel and its leg.”

“Oh,” he said.

Silence. After confessing aloud to what I’d done, the sadness and panic began to return. I had just killed a squirrel. Regardless of whatever carnivorous kinship I had suddenly formed with Buster, this had to be against my vegetarian beliefs. I began to panic and tried to focus on long, deep breaths before things got asthmatic. After a few steady breathing exercises, I realized that I was inhaling whatever molecules of squirrel still lingered in the atmosphere. Surely such fumes were toxic. If my soul wasn’t blackening by the minute, I felt positive that my lungs were.

I ran inside to escape the tainted air and to call for help. My mom would most likely call a funeral home, and I could still hear my dad cackling upstairs, so I decided the best, most reasonable option would be to call my sister.

“Hey what’s up?”

“I ran over a squirrel with the lawnmower.”

She screamed. Not the consoling reaction I was hoping for. After a minute, she said:

“There’s no way it was still alive, Jo. Remember when we used to try to catch squirrels with our lunch bags? They were so fast! There’s no way you could have hit one.”

“You’re right, I guess…”

I hung up, unsatisfied with her reasoning. No, we hadn’t ever been successful in our squirrel wrangling, but what if this one had been deaf? What if he had been sleeping? Dreaming of telephone wires and bird seed, only to wake up 5 yards from his lower limbs? I searched high and low for a tailless 3-legged squirrel, fully prepared to take him and his thigh to the nearest animal hospital.

In the end, I found nothing but bits of tail and fur, barely enough to knit Buster a modest tunic. The fact that I could find no trace of the remaining squirrel made me feel a little bit better — perhaps he had already been dead, after all. Perhaps Buster had simply forgotten to clean up after his mid-morning snack. This soothed me.

Present day…

It’s been a few weeks and I’m almost back to normal. My conscience feels lighter and I’ve yet to show any signs of toxic squirrel inhalation. I’ve also been excused from all lawn-mowing, which has been nice. I was nearly to a place of peace until my dad discovered what had actually killed the squirrel. This happened a few days ago:

“Jo! I figured it out!”

“Figured what out?”

“What killed the squirrel. It was lead poisoning! Those damn squirrels have been chewing through the roof!”

I know that he meant well by this — he was trying to reassure me that I did not in fact kill the squirrel. But somehow the thought of inhaling a toxic, lead-laden squirrel did not do much to quell my concerns.

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