Monday, June 20, 2011

For Want Of A Nail...

So, this morning the cat woke me up. I was pretty pissed off about that for a number of reasons. The first was that it was still wintry pitch-black. There's the thing about a winter solstice in the temperate zones: it counts for something. 0630 (and cold, and rainy as hell) is darker than a birthday card from Cormac McCarthy.

Another reason I was pissed off: the cat awoke me with that awful noise they make. You know the one - where they're chewing five kinds of hell out of their arse, making little grunty, snorky-slobbery noises all at the same time. The sound of a cat frenziedly masticating its own nether regions is a long way from my list of top-five wake-up calls.

Still another reason: the cat in question was sitting on top of my snuggly, fleecy bathrobe, which I had left on the floor. I'm not allergic, but the robe is black, y'know? And the cat... he's cat-coloured. Which means my fleecy black bathrobe is now covered in the cat equivalent of shed pubes. Plus, of course, whatever utterly disgusting substances he managed to dislodge while vehemently introducing his dentistry to his proctological parts. Yuck.

Of course, once I realised all that, I was even more irritated, because normally I don't leave my robe on the floor. Generally, I hang it on the bedpost so I can grab it if I need it. But last night, at something like 0300, it turns out I needed the fuckin' thing. And the reason I needed it was even more frickin' irritating.

Y'see, we're having a winter here in Tas. A serious one. And last night took itself very seriously indeed. For example: at 1800, I tried to drive over the range to get to sword training. I laughed at the narrow, winding road and the pounding rain. Ha ha! See me laugh!

Of course, when I got a bit higher, the screaming winds cut in. And I was driving Natalie's little blue car, which is a bit light on the road. But never mind: see me chuckle grimly, and drive on through the horizontal rain (and sleet), and the violently gusting winds over the narrow, winding roads.

When I hit the impenetrably dense fog, I stopped chuckling and began to snarl. Tasmania is the only place I've ever been where you can get thick fog, rain, sleet, and wild winds all at once... and that's what I was trying to drive through. But never mind! I am Flinthart! I am made of sterner stuff!

I dodged the first spot where the water was almost all the way over the road, but at that point I started thinking about the fact that in three hours, I'd have to make the drive back again... except I'd be kind of tired after a couple hours of swordslinging. That didn't encourage me, but I kept driving.

The second patch of water stretching across the road was a real eye-opener, but despite the fog, I dodged it too. That was probably because by that time, I was doing about 30kph. Any faster would have been seriously stupid.

The final straw wasn't a straw at all. It was, in fact, a decent-sized tree that had fallen across the road. Unlike a lot of chaps hereabouts, I don't travel with a chainsaw in the boot of the car. All I had was my katana, and frankly, I didn't think my tameshigiri skills were up to clearing away a tree with a 50-80cm trunk.

So, that was that. I turned around and came home. But you understand now the kind of night we were having.

Therefore, when I heard a stentorian electronic monotone blaring out from somewhere downstairs at 0300, I groaned and pulled the pillow over my head. But Natalie got up and investigated, and didn't come back, and that kind of meant I had to do something manly and tough, so I got up and grabbed my robe.

Downstairs, I found Natalie standing underneath the smoke alarm, looking up with a resigned expression on her face. Oh. Shit. She can't reach the smoke alarm, even with a chair. But I can.

So I went and fetched a chair.

Oddly, the sound of the smoke alarm was considerably lower in pitch than I was used to. It was loud as all hell, but it didn't have that brain-skewering quality I associate with a good, healthy smoke alarm. Never mind. I reached up, and disconnected it.

And the noise continued. Fuck.

I looked around. Natalie looked around. At much the same instant, we spotted the intercom by the door. It's an old model, and it's linked by a light electric line to the shed, so we can communicate with kids who might be up there. Evidently the wind had torn down the line and the rain had shorted out the contacts, because the speaker was producing the most ungodly howl... which stopped when I switched it off. Yay.

I went back up the stairs, conscious of Natalie's glare, because I left the chair in position under the (now reconnected) smoke alarm. Bugger it. I could move the chair in the morning.

Ahhh, but I recked without that weird instinct women have -- the one that can ignore any number of dishes, or violins, or clothing scattered around the house, but goes Spider-sense berserk the moment a chair is moved to the wrong spot at 0300. So Natalie picked up the chair and put it back in the sunroom.

Okay. Time for sleep.

The bed was warm. The bed was cosy. The rain was loud on the roof, and the wind wailed like a Canadian hockey fan outside... and then the 'chirp' happened.

You know that sound? Of course you do. The sound of a smoke alarm whose battery has just raised the middle finger. CHIRP! CHIRP! CHIRP!

"It's chirping," said Natalie. As if I hadn't noticed.

"Fuck," I said. And I got my robe. And I went downstairs. And I fetched the chair. And I found a spare nine-volt battery. And I pulled down the fucking smoke alarm, and I put the new battery into it, and I put it back in place. Then I put the old battery in the bin, and I put the battery packaging in the bin, and I put the goddam fucking chair back in the sunroom, and I tidied half the fucking kitchen while I was down there and then I fucking well went back to fucking bed and left my goddam robe lying on the fucking floor...

...which is why the cat woke me up when it started snarfling its own butt at 0630 this morning.

Happy Solstice, everybody!