Every once in a while I am reminded—by fate, friends, or family members—that I don’t know everything, and that sometimes people, places, events, and situations are not what they seem. It isn’t always a pleasant experience, but it is usually pretty funny (or at least amusing) which makes it worthy of sharing—at least in my mind.
Such was the case this fall when I learned the truth about the hideous structure that stands in the yard immediately behind ours. You may recall having read about this structure in a post entitled “On the Fence” back in October of 2014. In case you missed it, have forgotten it, and/or don’t want to wade through the archives to find it, here is how I described it then:
“not long after [our new] fence went up and the leaves on the remaining trees started to come down, the neighbors [behind us] put up what can only be described as an ugly lattice goal post…Standing 16 feet wide and comprised of two 2’ by 8’ wide strips of lattice secured atop three 4”x4” posts, the structure towers 8 feet in the air and, more importantly, stands 2 feet higher than our fence…Unpainted and alarmingly far from level or square, it looks like a seventh grade shop project gone horribly awry.”
What the hell? I remember asking when I first saw it. Too ugly to be artful and too flimsy to be useful, the structure appeared to serve no decorative or functional purpose whatsoever. If you don’t believe me, check out these photos:
For weeks I pondered that eyesore and the why it was there, and came up empty. In fact, it was as if the neighbors had put it up just to annoy us. And, yet, that seemed a bit paranoid—even for me. With writing to do and another knee surgery to recover from, I eventually stopped obsessing about the goal post. Until the leaves began to fall again this year, and the truth was revealed.
I was in the family room that afternoon, talking to the Princess when a 14-billion-candlepower beam of light suddenly blasted me in the face. What the hell? I remember asking again as I shielded my eyes and walked over to the window to see what was going on.
It took me a minute, but I finally realized what was happening. As the sun was setting in the west, it was shining into our backyard and onto a twenty-foot wide section of our fence. Reflected by the color and surface texture of the fence, the light was then cast through the windows of the family room and into my eyes. Coincidentally, this section of fence lined up perfectly with the ugly lattice goal post in the neighbor’s yard, which in turn lined up perfectly with the two sliding patio doors on the neighbor’s house.
And that’s when it hit me: The thing that looked like a goal post or a wooden volleyball net wasn’t either of those things. Nor was it put there to punish, irritate, annoy, or otherwise upset me. Rather, it had been put up to block the rays of the sun which, prior to the removal of the trees from our backyard, had not been able to reach their backyard, much less breach the sliding glass doors on the back of their house.
So all that obsessing I’d done was for naught. They weren’t trying to keep us from seeing into their windows, as I had once feared. Nor were they trying to avoid looking into ours. Nor were they trying to punish us for taking down all those trees and putting up that fancy new fence. They just wanted to sit, stand, cook, eat, and watch TV inside their own home without being blasted in the face by the light of the setting sun.
That seems like a reasonable desire. And while I still think they could have achieved this goal more easily and cheaply and with less effort (by, say, closing their blinds) or with a bit more focus on aesthetics, I will refrain from complaining. Especially when I consider all of the other modes and materials they could have used to shield themselves from the sun, I think it’s best to keep my lips zipped.
Would that I could do the same in relation to my next update, which concerns Vladmir—aka Vlad the Impaler. You may recall reading about Vlad in a post entitled “A Very Special Cat,” wherein I described his “Feline Autism.” To wit:
“This poor guy finds the idea of uninvited physical contact so repulsive that he’s learned to thwart any attempt to touch him before you’ve even committed to making the effort. Assisting him in avoiding unwanted affection is his coat, which features insanely long and sensitive guard hairs that allow him to feel your aura, and which prompt him to flatten each section of his body from his head to his tail as your hand moves through the air above him…If he does—by some miracle—allow you to pet him, for God’s sake don’t look at him while you do it. You can look at Vlad or you can pet Vlad but if you try to do both you will overload his circuits and he will bolt…So talk to him without looking at him or touching him. Or pet him without looking at him or talking to him. But for the love of Mike, never do two of these things at once.”
In that post, I also wrote about his habit of delivering “four to six freshly ‘killed’ bouncy balls, fabric mice, and other prey to our room each night for us to admire when we wake up in the morning.”
This sort of thing now occurs throughout the day, with Vlad finding, killing, and presenting to me his gifts in whichever room I happen to be at the time. He has also become quite vocal about his achievements. Starting from the moment he closes his mouth around his ‘prey’ until he drops it on the floor for me, he will yowl loudly and forcefully through his fangs, as if to say ‘prepare to be amazed.”
In addition, in the months since I first wrote about him, Vlad has brought about the demise of several real rodents that somehow made their way into our home. Although I am somewhat unnerved by the knowledge that real rodents have somehow made their way into our home, I am happy we have Vlad around to keep them in check.
I am also happy to report that, in the months since I first wrote about him, we have learned something about Vlad that sheds a sheds a new and interesting light on his habits and activities. Specifically, we have learned that Vlad is not an ordinary cat but a Norwegian Forest Cat. We can’t say for sure since we can’t confirm the identity of his father, but all available evidence suggests that he is descended on both sides from Norwegian Forest Cats.
This evidence includes his physical features—most notably the length and texture of his coat, the size and shape of his head, and his heavily muscled body—as well as those of his mother, who is a slightly smaller version of Vlad. It also includes other traits, such as his distaste for being cuddled, his devotion to hunting, and his tendency to brag about it—all of which his mother also shares.
Of course, none of this proves that Vlad is a true blue Norwegian Forest Cat. Especially since he came from the Jarhead’s parents’ farm, where cats tend to mix and mate with abandon, that seems a remote possibility. Still, based on what we DO know about Vlad, his mom, and all the other cats on the farm, it’s fair to say that—as the Princess puts it: Vlad is so inbred that he’s a purebred.
And that, for better or worse, is the rest of the story.