On a hot summer night a few days back a hand-sized battery-operated radio rested on a century-old quarter-sawn oak side table next to my scratched leather chair. The radio was tuned to an old-school AM station, the kind of station where grandma listened to polkas, a station still broadcasting college football, which was why I tuned in and it felt just right.
My midnight-black cat Pippa was hunkered down on a nearby windowsill, content to hang out with the old guy who adores her and she was clearly not much interested in college football. A quick glance at my furniture would tell anyone who entered that I share a life with a clawed cat or two. Snooty furniture retailers would call my stuff “distressed.”
Into the third quarter the outcome of the game was clear, so I began drifting, ruminating about those who have much, and those who have nothing, those who suffer, and those who somehow manage to avoid it. And none of it makes any sense to me. I often wonder how some people can afford to live the way they do and then I do the same with the poor, wondering how in the world they get by, and please don’t tell me how they’re all freeloaders and bad people, because I know better.
It’s an interesting time to be alive, perhaps not as interesting as 1968, but close. Syrians are being killed by suicide bombers at an alarming rate, the U.S. government has managed to paralyze itself, the east coast has been battered by storms, much of Asia is trying to recover from a typhoon, and out here the state Legislature, like in many other states, has done its best to disenfranchise voters, manage women’s health, and just generally spend tax dollars it doesn’t have. Clearly we have our work cut out for us.
Oh yeah, my cat Pippa. She is the Barney Fife of the cat world, very nervous, a little spooked by everything, and happy to be away from the madding crowd, so when she needed veterinary care recently she slunk as low as possible on a metal table and locked frightened eyes with mine, only inches away from hers. As the vet poked, prodded, and touched sensitive areas, Pippa and I talked. Well, I talked.
In a low voice I told her that despite not knowing this particular vet I was pretty sure she knew what she was doing. Like the guy-in-chief, I spoke without any evidence to support my statements. I let Pippa know that she would be OK, that Pangloss in Voltaire’s “Candide” was naively correct, that “Everything always turns out for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds,” or something close to that.
The same thing cannot be said to those with no hope, those with no money, those with no home, those killed in war, those whose homes are flooded, even those without one of America’s necessities, a car.
Oh, and Pippa is doing very well. Thanks for asking.
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• Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County. His book “The Iowa State Fair” is available from the University of Iowa Press.