Fork U.

This is a true story …

It was a Sunday and I was invited over a friend’s for a family dinner. Being Italian, they tended to eat heartily. And especially at Sunday dinner. A little snacking and drinking led to first course of chicken followed by a break with more free-flowing drink. The pasta came out next, then more rest. The main course was laid out afterward – naturally the biggest affair with seconds expected – which usually resulted in belt loosening. Or course, drink and talk and banter punctuated the respite. Then came the dessert. Corner-pieced with appropriate libations. If you weren’t rolled out the door at whatever time you decided to leave you didn’t eat enough according to the hosts.

It was during the pasta stage of the meal where this story centers. It was a simple linguini and gravy with bread which began the whole affair. I was sitting near the end of the table by an uncle named Louie, a member of the family with many a tall tale, big opinions and just as big a voice.

As the last person was served we all dug in to our spaghettis. I casually twirled my noodles around my fork and listened to some story being told by someone at the other end of the table when Louie noticed my manner of food delivery … of which he was obviously not in agreement.

“You know you have a spoon sitting right there beside your plate,” he casually mentioned to me.

“I do, thank you,” I told him. I continued eating.

“It’s not for show. You can use it,” he suggested. I looked at Louie and smiled.

Not a forkful of pasta later, Louie was on me about using the spoon once again: “What’s the matter with you? You don’t have manners and eat properly? Use your spoon.”

“Thank you but no,” I told Louie. “I have an issue with metal dragging on metal when I eat. It leaves a coppery taste in my mouth that sets me on edge,” I explained to him.

“I don’t care. Pick up your spoon and use it,” he urged.

“Sorry, Louie. That’s not going to happen.”

Louie stopped eating, dropped his utensils with a clatter and sat back in his chair. Everyone stopped eating at looked at the two of us.

He then reached for his fork, picked it up and leaned toward me with the business end of it half a foot from my face: “If you don’t pick up that damned spoon and use it right now, I’m going to stick this fucking fork in your eye” he stated in no uncertain terms and without blinking.

I looked directly at Louie. “No, thank you. I’m not going to use my spoon. I’ve explained why …”

Louie threw down his fork once again and shoved himself back in his chair. He harrumphed loudly. “Damned disrespectful kids who don’t listen to their elders …” he grumbled. He scooched his chair closer to the table and began eating again.

I looked at my friend for the first time during this exchange and saw him smirking at me in approval. Along with everyone else, I began eating once again.

Later, I discovered the entire affair was a test of my character, typical chest-pounding indicative of Louie. Apparently I had passed the test.

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Here Kitty, Kitty

I was minding my own business leaning against the van door, window open, making some notes in a notebook. A squirrel was in a nearby tree chirping up a storm and being more annoying than squirrels usually are. I’d even yelled at it at one point when I was walking the property as I was doing my estimate, but that was to little avail. It satisfied me to yell at the yapping furball, though. I looked up once more to see if I could see it looking down and mocking me.

Then, I saw something out of my peripheral vision.

Looking up, I saw it was a cat. I looked back down to what I was writing … then immediately did a double take.

The cat was sauntering across the street some 50′ feet distant. And, damn … was it ever a big cat! It looked in my direction with a sort of casual piss offedness and continued on its way.

Mentally, I shook cobwebs out of my head at the sight. I don’t think I’d ever seen a cat quite that big. And I’ve seen some big-ass cats in my day: Over-fed, lazy beasts that can barely move across the floor, ones that were walking mats of hair teetering toward food dishes. This one? Was easily making its way to the other side of the street despite its hugeness and headed to a corner that occupied bushes and palm trees.

Interestingly, it was mottled in black and tan and white with stripes here and there, a rather interesting pattern. It had a unique face with pointed-looking jowls aimed at the ground, the defining thing that gave it the “don’t mess with me” look. Then I noticed it had a short, clipped tail as if it had been run over or someone had cut its tail off.

Reaching the opposite side of the street, I saw the cat leap onto one of the palms and begin to sharpen its claws. I swear I saw the palm sway when it leapt atop it. It looked over in my direction once more with that “What the hell are YOU looking at?” glare.

Suddenly it hit me: “Holy crap! That’s not a cat: It’s a bobcat!

I jumped off the van door and dove inside to grab my camera. Coming up with it, I unzipped the case while simultaneously slamming the door shut. I quickly took a few steps toward the middle of the street. The bobcat looked my way a third time, hopped off the tree and ducked into nearby bushes to hide.

That’s when I stopped myself cold.

What the hell was I doing?!? That’s a bobcat for Pete’s sake! I don’t know if they’re dangerous (I’d never heard of any attacks on humans by the animals) but my senses got the better of me and decided it was better not to find out. I turned tail and got back in the van.

But I was determined to get a closer look. I keyed the starter, rolled up my window and drove across the street directly at the bushes where the animal was no doubt hiding. It was becoming quite dusky outside and it was getting more and more difficult to see. I turned on the headlights and maneuvered so the lights busted through the bushes.

Nothing. The thing could have taken off behind my field of vision for all I knew.

That’s when I got hit with another realization. Walking around that house, while I was sizing it up and taking measurements? It came back to me that damned squirrel was raising a ruckus the entire time. No wonder! It had obviously seen the bobcat lurking about and was chittering at it in warning.

Involuntarily, I shivered with the thrill of it all.