Not long after the Mad Cow struck (see my previous blog), an old friend called to check on me -- he's VERY old -- we've known each other 40 years, give or take a few. I believe everyone should have two kinds of friends: one is the friend who listens to how someone like the Mad Cow disses you and offers an objective opinion: maybe she was having a terrible day, maybe she's lonely because she only has a decrepit German Shepherd for company, and he is waiting for her to weaken so he can feast on her. The other kind listens and immediately loathes the Mad Cow with every fiber of his being, cannot even say her name without hissing and volunteers to torch a bag of poop on her front porch. Because she hurt your feelings, this friend hates her as if she had shot his beloved dog. In front of his children.
Steven is the latter type of friend.
While I consider myself a compassionate person, his stories about his physical calamities evoke hilarity on my part. He is such a good friend that he continues to tell me about his physical misfortunes because they never fail to cheer me up. Sometimes I try to muffle my giggles, but he always seems to know and says something like "I'm SO glad you find this amusing," or "I can tell you're rolling on the floor."
We met during our first semester of college in an English class; I remember telling our instructor (they weren't all PhDs then) that I didn't like All the King's Men and she told me in kind of a snotty way that I was too immature to appreciate it. She also thought I had made up my name because Susie Toone just sounded too cute to be real. That English class was one of those serendipitous events that changed my life.
I've only witnessed him being in terrible physical pain one time, and I still cannot account for my behavior all those years ago. If I saw you, one of my numerous fans, fall down a flight of stairs, I would be seriously distressed and call 911. If I saw Steven fall, I might well wet myself laughing and hesitate to call 911 in case he said something really funny and I might miss it.
We were in thrall to the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, especially Aragorn. (I wanted to be Aragorn's true love, and seeing Viggo Mortenson in the part so many years later did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm). Steven wanted to be Aragorn, except he was fond of being clean and eating good food and not so much of fighting. It was late at night and we were running through a field. He was ahead of me and his cape was flying behind him -- he made a very dashing figure. Suddenly, he literally bounced back a foot or so, as if some unseen force had hurled him backwards. It turned out that he'd run into a line of barbed wire that hit him just at breast level.
Like my siblings and other close friends, he is my memory keeper, since it resembles a collander. Although I remember the scene, I couldn't really remember where it was and sent him an email asking for more details. He replied:
"It was that place in the country where D's boyfriend and some of his friends slaughtered a cow and ended up going to prison. We used to love playing in the surrounding woods and that particular evening, as the birds (hundreds of them) were coming in to nest as they did every night, I decided that we were playing hobbits and the black riders were after us. I remember yelling "RUN!" and next thing I knew I literally bounced off the barbed wire. I still have a scar right over my heart. Symbolic?"
And speaking of cows and prison time... a memory has surfaced about one of my previous husbands. We were living in North Little Rock -- a small house with a fabulous barn and a bit of land. He announced one day that we were going to babysit some cows for a friend of his. I am naive in many ways, but even I know you don't babysit cows: you might feed and water them and maybe even herd them to the barn if their owners are out of town, but your friends don't bring them to your house. I refused, and he told me furiously that I never supported his ideas, we could make some money from this, I was a lousy wife. Turns out -- surprise!!!!! - that the cattle were stolen; prison time was involved.
But I digress, as I always do. So as I was saying, I felt quite beaten down when Steven called the other night, and so he told me stories he knew would lighten my spirits: ones that would make my stomach and sides ache at his expense.
He has a friend with an antique shop that Steven used to manage, where stray cats could always find a meal and some affection. A tomcat came to take advantage of the hospitality; he would eat but otherwise would not let anyone approach him. One day, however, the tom sent all the signals that indicated he wanted affection: a tilting of the head, a certain sound, a subtle move of the tail -- and cat lovers everywhere know that it can be an honor if such a cat allows you to lay hands on him. So Steven gave him some nice scratches about the head and ears, which the tom seemed to love: he wriggled and moaned. Right before sinking his fangs and lower teeth into Steven's wrist and not wanting to let go. The four punctures spewed blood for a long time as he washed them; he thought that was a sign toxins were being released. However, only the wimpy toxins washed away in the endless flow of blood; the ruthless ones were gathering their strength for an all-out assault. After an endless, sleepless night in which his wrist swelled to the size of a of a pit bull's head and burned like the fires of hell, he went to see the doctor, who recommended he be hospitalized. He refused -- he does not go to the doctor unless he's close to dying, and it was only a cat bite -- what kind of sissy goes into the hospital for a cat bite? The doctor shot him up with antibiotics and sent him home with all manner of pills and unguents and infusions. By the next day, angry red streaks ran up his arm - the kind that indicate blood poisoning; I was almost hysterical by then, laughing so hard I could barely hear what he was saying. Which was basically that he refused hospitalization but had visit the doctor every morning for three days of strong shots. Apparently cat bites are almost as bad as human bites - who knew?
Although tears were flowing down my face and I could barely speak, he felt that I needed a bit more merriment to chase away any trace of the blues. So he told me another story that involved a screwdriver "that must have been 15 inches long and was as big as a billy club." Of course, it came down and hit him smack between the eyes on the bridge of his nose; as he was describing the pain and the blood gushing, I couldn't believe that once again, I was laughing like a maniac.
I tried telling my family the stories; they thought my imitation of the cat turning on him was kind of funny, especially the sound effects, but I can't come close to him in story telling. I can't convince him to write a blog, but he has promised that "In the future, as tragedies and such happen to me, I will make notes so I can tell you about it, leaving out no details." I will keep you posted.