Paul Heinz

Original Fiction, Music and Essays

Filtering by Category: Humor

Feline or Foe?

I’m going to make a confession despite the ensuing calls that are sure to come from my daughters, my sister and my vet if they happen to read this blog.  Okay?  Here goes.  I would be happier if my two cats – the orange tabbies Fred and George Weasley Heinz – would suddenly…um…not be alive. 

There.  I said it. 

Now don’t get your undies in a bunch.  I promise not to go all “Apt Pupil” on them and commit felinicide.  (Haven’t read the Stephen King novella?  You should.)   I’m not insane.  But yes, the cats do, from time to time, drive me insane. 

“Oh, come on,” you might say.  “What on Earth could two cute little cuddly cats do to upset you so?”

Well, I’ll make a list of the things my two cats have ruined since they joined the family nine years ago, right after my sister’s dog paid a visit to my home and played with our two hamsters until they were dead, hence clearing the Heinz household slate as far as pets were concerned.   We had an opportunity to replenish our deceased pets with something grander.  A dog?  One would think, but no.  We heard about someone getting rid of two flea-ridden kittens (the adjective unknown to us until we got them home), so we took the bait, and here we are nine years and many ruined household items later.  Allow me to share the items my cats have destroyed either by tearing them apart with their teeth, knocking them over onto the floor, or via urination:

A futon mattress.

A futon cover.

A shower curtain.

Three bean bag chairs.

Dozens of stuffed animals.

Four pillows.

A rug.

Two antique vases that had survived for eight decades, only to last two nights in my home.

Two plants.

Countless cut flowers, to the point where we don’t buy flowers anymore, and if someone gets us some as a present, we store them on TOP OF THE REFRIGERATOR!

Several scarves.

Several gloves.

Several hats.

Several blankets.

Several sweaters.

Several Crocks.

A few pairs of flip-flops.

Still think I haven’t earned the right to be mildly disenchanted with my feline friends?

“Oh, but the joy they bring,” you say.

Yes, the vomit I’ve had to clean up on an almost weekly basis.  The litter boxes they’ve failed to hit with their apparently malfunctioning weaponry.  The rug I had to spray from edge to edge while using an ultraviolet light to illuminate virtually one big mass of cat urine.  The $1200 I spent bringing George back from the brink of death after he swallowed a toy.

Joyful indeed. 

We now have to keep our bedroom doors shut at all times because doing otherwise will invite the Weasley twins to tear apart clothing and any other moderately fuzzy artifact lying about in our house.  But here’s the thing:  on hot days when the air conditioner is running we have to keep our doors open, so lo and behold there were days this summer I spent vacuuming up the little plastic beads spilled from the torso’s of stuffed bears, lambs, and other assorted Beanie Babies.  And since our doors were open, the cats felt obliged to wake us up at 6AM for their morning breakfast, be it a work day or otherwise.

(I know what some of you are saying: “Paul, you don’t work anyhow, so who gives a shit?”  I DO work.  I work cleaning up after my two demon cats!)

We must be among the first generations of mankind to put up with this kind of nonsense.  Would an average Joe living in 1850 put up with this crap?  Of course not.  He’d kick the damn thing out of the house and maybe even drown it for good measure.  Hell, I know a person who shall not be named who took his wife’s cat away for the day for a “little trip,” and only one living organism returned.  The wife is much happier now as a widow.  (I’m only kidding, but not entirely.)

@@ I know a someone who took his wife’s cat away for the day for a “little trip.” The wife is much happier now as a widow@@

I will not resort murder, though a blurb in TIME Magazine last week certainly put me on edge.  Seems a cat in Oregon named Corduroy has claimed the title as the oldest living cat.  Get this: TWENTY-SIX YEARS!  And that’s NOTHING!  The oldest cat ever on record is Crème Puff, who lived to be over 38 years old!

So Fred and George, I promise to keep feeding you and keep cleaning out your litter boxes.  I promise to play with you and talk to you.  I promise to let you hang on me when I’m watching TV.  I promise to continue to spend a small fortune on your checkups with the vet.

But do you think you could promise to bow out gracefully after, say, another nine years or so?  That seems like a fair deal, don’t you think?

The Phrase "Spoiler Alert."

The invention of the phrase “spoiler alert” has got to be one Man’s greatest linguistic contributions over the last decade or so.  Philip B. Corbet of The New York Times has rightly pointed out how overused the phrase has become, and how it’s often used incorrectly, but for my money, overuse is preferable to the alternative.

I think of the woman who came to my home in 2002, and who – after eating our food – thanked us by divulging the ending of the movie, The Others.

I will do for you what she didn’t do for me.

!!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!!

She opened up that pouty little mouth of hers and spewed out, “I couldn’t believe it when I learned her children were dead.”

She is very, very lucky that I didn’t resort to the following (or worse): 

After her egregious case of vomit of the mouth, it didn’t matter to me if she was smart or pretty, if she’d overcome obstacles in her life or helped the needy.  I couldn’t possibly care less if she gave twenty percent of her earnings to charity or if she was raising three perfect little angels.  None of that shit mattered to me.  What mattered is she opened her mouth and ruined the ending of a movie I was excited to see.  Yeah, the film had already left theaters and moved into video stores, but to me, there is no statute of limitations when it comes to revealing secrets about a piece of art.

I still haven’t told my kids about the ending of Psycho.  I’ll never divulge the meaning of Rosebud, whether or not Thorwald really murders his wife, and where the quarter of a million dollars is hidden in the movie Charade.  That’s for them to discover.  And I sure as heck won’t mention a word about The Sixth Sense.  Sure, I could try to ease my kids’ anxiety and mention !!!SPOILER ALERT!!! that the ghosts are actually trying to help, that they’re good guys (never mind the movie’s Big Secret).  I resorted to this tactic when my kids were younger watching E.T. for the first time.  !!!SPOILER ALERT!!! “The bad guys are actually good guys,” I said, attempting to alleviate their trepidation, but I’ll never do this again.  It kills the journey.

Some people just don’t get it, including – unfortunately – much of my family.  Last summer my sister-in-law blurted out the secret behind the musical, Next to Normal, the same day my daughter was to see it.  And just last month, my mother, in response to an email of mine indicating that I wanted to see the movie Enough Said, wrote the following email !!!SPOILER ALERT!!!:

I fell in love with the Soprano guy, what an appealing person.  Was Julia's character vulnerable, screwed up, or just terribly unkind?

Yep.  So now I know the ending of that movie, too.  Thanks, Mom.

I think when it comes to discussing books, films and theater, we could look to my sister for guidance.  Her advice for living in a world in which the excretion of opinions is as commonplace as breathing is this:

Shut your trap.

The True Sign of Aging: Smarter Kids

As the parent of two sixteen year-olds, I recognize that my perceived IQ is going to plummet precipitously over the next five years or so, only to rebound nicely in time for my daughters’ graduations from college.  This, I can accept, primarily because it’s temporary and because I’ll end up looking pretty good in the end.

I can also accept that I recently had to purchase my first pair of reading glasses and that the suit I purchased in 1993 is becoming tight in the mid-section. 

What I can’t accept is the true sign of aging: having kids that are far smarter than I am or ever will be.  And this has nothing to do with grades and tests.  Sure, both of my daughters did better on their practice ACTS than I did on my actual exam, but they’ve also taken classes that begin with the words “honors” and “AP,” and they tend to engage in activities such as completing assignments and studying.  Well, sure, anyone can do well on his ACT if he prepares for it.  Where’s the challenge in that?

No, the true sign of my kids’ superior intelligence was exhibited on Labor Day, when my family got together with friends and agreed to play a game of Pictionary – children vs. adults.  I am humbled and ashamed to reveal that my opponents were three-quarters of the way through the board before my team reached the first square!  We managed to shrink the margin of defeat before our kids completed their victory dance, but in truth, the adults – to borrow President Obama’s description of the 2010 midterm election – took a shellacking

Yes, I drew a Christmas tree about as well as my daughter did, but that didn’t help my team guess any quicker.  And my game partner learned that drawing nothing to help us guess the word “nothing,” wasn’t as successful as drawing something and then drawing a line through it, as our opponents did.  Even my 11 year-old son, who I would hope to be lagging somewhat on the intelligence front, portrayed “time zone” perfectly, sketching the Earth, drawing vertical lines through it, and then adding a clock for good measure. 

That’s right.  My sixth grader successfully drew “time zone.”  My team couldn’t even get “yield sign.”

Which is why from now on, I’m going to exercise my superiority over my children the only way I know how: ping-pong.

Therapy Session Leads to Short Story

The story behind my short story, “The Missing Ingredient," as told to Sucker Literary Magazine.  The latest issues is available in paperback and in digital form at Amazon.

 

A transcription of a conversation with my therapist, July 2012

Therapist: So in summary, what you seem to be saying is that you’re still holding onto the humiliation you felt as a teenager.

Me:  Well, duh. Isn’t everyone?

T:  No, not really.  Many people are able to, in time, embrace their childhoods.  You can get there too.

Me: No fricking way.  There is no way you’re going to tell me that I’ll be able to embrace the time I offered to carry Brittney Wright’s books, and she told me I was too scrawny.

T: You asked a girl to carry her books?  What decade were you living in?

Me: Um...well...

T: Cuz seriously, that sounds like something straight out of Leave it to Beaver.  You must have struck out a lot in high school, huh?

Me: Well, yeah.  In dating, and, um...baseball, too, I guess.  Other stuff.  Can we change topics?

T: You know, maybe you're right.  I’m not sure I can help you to embrace your childhood.  Unless...

Me: Unless what?  Doc, you gotta help me!  My face breaks out at the mention of tater tots.  I panic when I have to unhook a bra, even when no one’s wearing it!  For the love of all that’s holy, what should I do?

T: Write about it.

Me: Write about it!  That’s brilliant!  I’ll write a short story, get it published and parlay that into a novel, and it’ll beat out John Green for the “Awesome Kickass Young-Adult Novel of the Year” award.

T: Um...yeah, if that’s the extent of your vocabulary, you might want to...

Me: Too late, Mr. Therapist.  I’m ready.  I’m ready to reveal the suckiness of teenagedom in all its glory!

Method of Self-torture: changing one's email address

Purchasing a new computer after five years was a no-brainer.  Changing my email address after nine years?  Seemed like a good idea at the time.

I am currently in day four of email hell, as I attempt to notify and update every person, corporation, charity, school, credit card, utility, bank, college fund, theater and umpteen other entities that I have in fact changed my email address (though you can still reach me at paul@paulheinz.com from this website). 

Holy crap.  I thought it was bad when my credit card was stolen and I had to call every business who charged me automatically.  That was nothing.   

Gmail can now press on with the security of knowing they have a loyal customer for life.  Larry Page and Sergey Brin, I am now your slave.  I wouldn’t change my email address now if you promised me a Brewer World Series victory next October.  Don’t ever, EVER do anything that will jeopardize my @gmail.com extension.

What was truly troubling were the hoops some websites made me jump through to make such a simple change.  For financial institutions, I get it.  But some websites practically required a security clearance in order for me to be notified of the next 20% off sale.  Seemed a little excessive.  Particularly annoying: the number of sites that offered an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of their emails, but NOT a “change email preferences” link so that I could simply update my address.

As of today, in addition to notifying all of my personal contacts, I have updated 60 (that’s right, SIXTY) websites.  And I’m not even a computer savvy guy.  I don’t own a smart phone, and up until last week, I was still working on MS Vista.  I gotta believe there are people out there with hundreds of websites to update next time they change email addresses.  What will they do if they ever change carriers?  (Other than swear a lot, I mean.  Which is what I did.)

The biggest challenge has yet to be resolved.  I must have set up an incorrect answer to my security question on my 401k website many years ago, because after three attempts, I’ve now been locked out of my financial data altogether.  Apparently my best man was NOT my brother, though when I look at my wedding photo, I seem him standing next to me.  Go figure.  It’s easier to change our memories than it is to change our email addresses.

Copyright, 2017, Paul Heinz, All Right Reserved