We have a lot of cats at this house. When Mac comes to visit, with his cats in tow, the Resident Cat number doubles. The Extra Cats from the rest of the block have to step wary, then.

Mac came to town to have Mischief, his newest cat, neutered. Mischief is feeling confused and ball-less, and needs a lot of love, so we have all been cuddling him. Bud, Mac’s Number One cat, was so put out by all the fussing Mischief was getting, that he locked himself in the furnace room for five hours yesterday so he could be loved up when we all found him and exclaimed over him. Don’t tell me cats can’t strategize.

Mac goes to the vet we all go to, Dr. Bob. Dr. Bob is a misanthropist who comes into contact with people as a distasteful part of his job, which is being the best vet in the universe. Seriously. His kennels do have the sick beasties, but if you go through the little side door, you get to the other kennels, which house the animals people couldn’t be bothered to deal with. You know, the 18-year-old cat who needs to have wet food because his teeth are falling out, so his owner took him to Dr. Bob to be euthanized. The mutt with three legs that no one else wanted. Those kinds of animals.

Dr. Bob is caring and competent. He’s also seen a lot of cat testes. You can tell by the way he comments on them. About Mischief’s recently departed sacs? “Just look at these! Wow, they’re great! A very fine pair, indeed.”

Everybody’s an expert on something. I feel privileged that I know a man whose expertise lies in the area of animal genitalia.

Portrait in Words.

He bounces in and sits down, propping his elbows on the too-high table, like he’s ready for the next huge helping of the English language. Squirrel teeth show in a game grin. He’s ready. I pass him a writing lesson.
This phase lasts about ten minutes. I know. He gets bored, tries to make increasingly complex sentences, and goes ‘Awww,’, like the other team just scored, if he gets something wrong.
By the time another five minutes are up, his head tilts, slightly, to see the book for the reading test of the day. I see him glance through the corners of his eyelashes: Do I see he’s looking at the book?
A few seconds later, he makes a lightning-fast grab for the book. I’m there faster because I’ve been waiting for this. “Remember to ask, J. Then you can read.”
He grins. “Read? Now?”
I point to the paper in front of him. “Finish this page. Then you can read.” He sighs gustily.
Two minutes later: “Teacher?”
He gets a raised eyebrow from me. ‘teacher’ may be a Korean name of respect, but he’s in Canada now. I have a name.
“Ah-nee,” he corrects himself, tells himself ‘no’ in Korean. “El. Can I read?”
“Did you finish?”
He looks at his paper. “No.” He has two questions to go.
“Finish those. Then you can read.”

The kid loves to read. He loves navigating the pitfalls of a word like ‘laughed’. If I circle the word in the running reading chart as one he’s had trouble with, he points and says it right, trying to make me erase the circle. Eyes dancing all the time.

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