Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ok, So Here's a Story.

It's a short story.

It's me at my in-laws' party, a couple winters ago. I am there with my ever faithful, ever patient husband Jon and daughters Stacy and Janae and the rest of the Nelson gang at his brother's house, and I am watching the cat.

I am watching the cat because there is a lot going on. A lot of people are mingling and talking and reminiscing over stuff I know nothing about. They are talking about places in Montana that I have not been to, and they are asking about the health and well being of folks I do not yet know. They are really nice people and I like them, but I don't have a whole lot to contribute to the conversation, and so I am watching the cat.

The cat is supposed to be upstairs, but he is not. He is on the stairs, half-way up to where he should be, half-way down to where he wants to be, near the plate of crackers and salmon.

And between him and the crackers and salmon is six steps, and a bowl of almonds.

I watch him sniff the almonds, then gingerly stick his rough tongue out to scrape off a bit of the salt on them. He likes them, and so he licks, licks, licks the salt. The almonds barely move, he is so delicate. And no one notices him but me.

Someone asks me if I want something to drink, and I say yes, mostly because I can't think of anything else to say at the moment, and I want to keep watching the cat.

A very nice man goes over to the almonds and scoops up a handful and pops them in his mouth. He has not noticed the cat, who has bolted upstairs so that he is where he should be.

The cat returns. Lick, lick, lick. Then bolts. The man returns, too. Scoop, munch, munch, munch.

I should not be pleased at this, but I am. I like the man. I like the cat. And I like the idea of the two navigating around each other and this bowl of nuts.

I start thinking about all the bowls of M&Ms I have nibbled at during parties. Dishes of Chex Mix. Peanuts. Trail mix. Crackers. Chocolate covered raisins. And I can't help but wonder who tasted them before I did. What unseen dog, cat, kid has been there before me? I should be disgusted, but again, I am pleased. The peanuts become opportunities, the almonds become experiences, the Chex Mix - well, that's just Chex Mix. The metaphor only goes so far.

That's my story, short and sweet and salty and crunchy. And I think it may actually have a moral, such as it is. I think the moral of the story is this: Whatever it is, someone's been there before you. Whatever it is, someone will be there after you. So go ahead and get some but don't forget to leave enough for the next one who comes along. And in the meantime, don't get too bent about how it tastes. It's good. You'll live.

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