Writer, Editor, Parent...

Looking at 40

Posted: November 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Column | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

I”ll be 37 in a few days. Because I still feel as though I’m somewhere in my mid-twenties it always comes as a surprise when I realise that, yes, it’s 2010 and that means I’m definitely not in my twenties anymore. I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday I was ringing in my 26th birthday in the Queen’s Park Savannah with the Vox Crew, led by my brother Taye and Remy “Rembunction” Yearwood, as they sang happy birthday, drowning out Wyclef’s performance?

But it’s a decade later. No concerts in the Savannah this year, I think. No throngs of well-wishers. Instead, wrinkles on my neck, two or three unfinished projects (a couple more unstarted, even), a pitiful bank balance, a beat-up car, long-dead parents, a semi-abandoned career as a journalist, and worse hearing with every day (possibly from too many concerts, in the Savannah and elsewhere, when I was young). Counting my blessings: great friends I don’t see enough, great friends who have seen me through decades of years and gallons of tears; two daughters who delight and amaze me daily; a kitten who pees all over the house but whom I love like I’ve never loved an animal before; an NGO and a great team to help build it; one short novel and a book I’ve edited.

My wrinkly neck. By age 40 I'll look like I'm ready for a Thanksgiving pardon.

Peering down the road at 40, I can see more wrinkles, perhaps less cat pee, if I’m lucky and Fennec gets some behaviour. Maybe I’ll go back into journalism, and that would help the bank balance, even, possibly, the beat-up car. Maybe not; I’m too accustomed now to doing what I like, mostly when I like it, to go back to the rigor and inconvenience of being on someone else’s time clock. When the NGO grows up, as it must, maybe I will earn an actual salary and be able to support myself from it. Or maybe I’ll just hold out until the children are grown and they can support me for a change. (Ha. Miss Thing just announced she wants to be an anthropologist. Damn, must she get the “earn no money” gene from her father and me? On the upside, The Lady says she wants to be rich and famous. There is hope yet.)

At least reaching this age I can dismiss or refine some aspirations. I definitely won’t have the BMW I wished I’d had by age 30. I might have to push the Nobel Prize back to age 70. Bummer. My Great West Indian Novel is yet to be finished; maybe it will be “published to unanimous acclaim in over 22 countries” (to steal Miss Thing’s pet phrase) by the time I’m 45? That’s only eight years away. One thing about growing older: you definitely learn that time flies–the Concorde.


fff#28–The strange tale of the pants cat

Posted: October 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: FFF | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

I too-rarely participate in my friend elisha’s flash fiction fridays, a kind of writing exercise where you have to write a short piece of fiction using a trigger that she provides. The trigger can be an opening sentence, a closing sentence or a list of words you have to include in the piece. This week she posted an inclusion trigger. Here’s my attempt. It’s not actually fiction, but fmf (flash memoir fridays) doesn’t have the same ring, somehow.

fff#28 (inclusion) trigger:rebellion, fox, strange, mirror, pleasure.

True story: Fennec came to us in pants.

He wasn’t wearing pants. He was in the pants. Brian walked up to me while I was sitting on a wooden bench in the waiting room of the free dental clinic with Najja sitting next to me waiting to take out a baby tooth that was making a rider. Brian had a strange look on his face. “Look at this,” he said, holding open the pocket of his baggy jeans. Two sleepy kitten eyes stared out from the pocket and the barely furry face opened its mouth in a noiseless mew. I jumped off the bench, yelling, “What the hell?!?” A good moment for an interrobang right there.

We called him Fennec after the fox with the huge ears. His ears were ginormous, bigger than his head, nearly bigger than his body, truth be told. He was frail and dirty with scant hair covering his pink skin. His mother had had a litter of 16 kittens but most cats have between six and eight nipples. Not very strange that he was in bad shape.

Brian took the pants off and went home in his boxers with the sleepy kitten still in the pocket of his jeans. Regular feedings of milk-soaked bread gave him fortitude and within a couple of days the creature was toddling around like an actual kitten, peering into the mirror at himself with puzzlement and interest, batting at his reflection and running away with an awkward, teetering gait. Soon he didn’t want bread and milk anymore and was screaming in hunger at the merest whiff of meat.

Countless fleas lurked under Fennec’s dingy white fur, especially in its archipelago of brownish-gray spots running up his back to his tail. After Googling kittens and fleas we learned that although he was probably a little too young for a proper flea treatment we could wage a war of attrition against them with twice-weekly baths in mild soap followed by blow-drying him on low heat. It’s strange to suggest bathing a cat–it never sounded like a good idea–and Fennec, unsurprisingly, wasn’t a fan. A warm bath and chocolate-scented body wash, which was the mildest thing we had around the house, was punishment to him. His rebellion against this inhumane treatment took the form of vicious slashes with his razor-sharp claws and the occasional bite. He really didn’t want to be bathed. Ever. Again. But we did it religiously twice a week for about a month. He still has fleas but far fewer; a side effect of the regular baths was that his fur grew in properly and he was no longer hairless, even if his mammoth ears are still too big for his increasingly rotund body.

The nicest part about bathing Fennec was that afterwards someone would have to put him under their shirt to get him warm because he was shivering so much. He’d curl up around your tummy and subside into sleep, purring in pleasure. Maybe he was remembering how he came to us, snug in the pocket of a pair of pants.