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Irrational Hope

This is only loosely related to the Seahawks and it's not at all related to this Saturday's playoff game.

You've been warned.


It was Sunday and I was finishing up a post. Well I said I finishing up a post but it would be hours before I was done. Alanya was concerned. She said Houdini's bladder felt as big as a lemon and tight. I told her to look it up online. I told her we were probably overreacting, that he wasn't isolating himself, that we were out of our depth guessing out of worry.

She found sites describing urinary blockage. Houdini had crawled into the narrow space between the bed and wall. I was still writing some inane nonsense about Darryl Tapp or Trevor Laws or Brian Brohm or whoever. Some stranger that had caught my fascination. She found a site that said it could be deadly.

I said call around, find somewhere we can take him. I said if you're concerned put things in motion and we'll go. It was Sunday night and nothing at all was open and the place she called had no advice but to bring Houdini in. I got up, we drove, we crossed the I-5 bridge, me not knowing the destination, her dictating directions, me making sarcastic comments after we exited 405 towards the Vaughn street exit. 23rd. Jesus Christ.

We turned into the parking lot for Dove Lewis and they took Houdini right away and we sat and looked around and everything was well lit and clean. There were other people. There was a fifty gallon aquarium filled with exotic fish. There was waiting, lots of waiting, and waiting wasn't the bad part, being called into the room and told the business was the bad part. They wanted to keep Houdini overnight. They wanted to charge us thousands of dollars. They entreatied us to do what was best for our cat and calmly elaborated ways he was suffering, his nearness to death.

She spilled out into night and I followed overflowing with anger. She was in school and I was loading freight at UPS and SB Nation paid nothing and our balance was in the hundreds and our balance wasn't even enough to cover services the vet had already performed.  We were fighting and I was cruel and I did not want to be cruel but I was overwrought with guilt and anger and felt helpless and felt stupid. I told her I'd drive to the ATM. Stay. I'll be back. We'll be okay.

I drove up NW Pettygrove towards 23rd. The things you think: those fucking bastards for putting us over a barrel. Emergency care for a pet is a luxury. I should feel ashamed for being so angry. Eating out. Evian water in the cat's IV. Sennheiser Headphones. Old failures and regrets you think you've shaken. That fucking fish tank. 23rd! Of all the vets ... The sucker on the top slide that was mired in debt because he bought a blood transfusion for his dog. How the teamsters heckled him. How I just stood and watched others work. Inadequacy, I felt a lot of inadequacy and like I was stripped of my manhood, like I was back to being a pleading child hoping someone could save me. THOSE FUCKING BASTARDS AND THEIR FUCKING FISH TANK. My cat probably eats better than a third of the world's population. It's a luxury to keep a cat. Jesus ... Houdini.

After I parked and as I approached the ATM, my thoughts crystallized into one rumination: If I could not save Houdini, if we could not afford the treatment, would she ever forgive me?

We couldn't afford the treatment.

I drove back.

I walked in. Alanya looked pale and weak and beautiful. I told her we couldn't afford to keep Houdini there, we couldn't afford the services already rendered and I didn't know what to do. I sat beside her in a plastic chair. We thought over Houdini's death. We waited.

Eventually a woman arrived and tested our credit and our credit was insufficient and that woman left and a young man came in her place. We qualified for some charity, and he wanted to know if we wished to apply.

The rest was waiting.

We waited until morning. Houdini was returned to us. We drove home and opened the cat carrier. He staggered about as if drugged. He was drugged. We joked that our surly cat was home, having survived another brush with death. The space between us was cavernous, but we were together, and Houdini was alive, and the cat we adopted when we were barely together a year was home, and better or as good as he got.

About a year later, we went through it all again. Grim calmness had replaced ignorance and panic. We found an emergency vet nearby and that vet screwed us just as surely as the one with the ten thousand dollar fish tank. We had more money and could cover the expense, but barely. The vet wanted to keep Houdini a few days for observation. We told him to unplug his urethra and give him back. We could take Houdini to our own vet in the morning.

We had more money but many of the same thoughts. Is it right to spend so much on cat? Should we just put Houdini to sleep and "get our priorities straight" as Alanya's mother said? We had a running joke about how hate-filled Houdini was and how he longed to embrace the sweet staow of death. We had a running joke about Houdini and the apocalypse and him eating out our putrefying guts as final retribution. He was only five but acted old, as if he was in pain, and we thought him getting shot and his two subsequent brushes with death caused by his blocked urethra had made Houdini bitter and depressed. We thought that if we couldn't keep him well, couldn't protect him from pain, couldn't afford to treat him when he became sick, and couldn't justify spending so much on a luxury, wasn't it selfish to keep Houdini alive? Wasn't our hope for Houdini a flimsy bulwark against our own fear of death?

Houdini had an appointment with or local vet, Dr. Velardi. Dr. Velardi took Houdini in and did all the things the emergency vet promised but at a fraction of the cost. Alanyna visited Houdini and I did once too. He looked sad, frail, cooped up, and if a cat could, pale.

After a couple days, the treatment was over and we arrived to retrieve our cat and hear the prognosis. Houdini was unplugged but still not passing fluid very well. He suggested food formulated to promote urinary tract health and we told him we fed our cats food formulated to promote urinary tract health. He told us we could take our cat home, and whether real or imagined, his tone and expression looked to me like he could say no more because what was left to say wasn't worth saying.

But he had one idea, a notion, nothing radical, but just something he had read about and thought about before: what if he removed Houdini's penis. That was the problem, after all. Crystals formed where the urethra narrowed. If he could remove the penis, he could excise the problem. He warned there was a good chance Houdini might become incontinent. Were we okay with that? Not standing in a piss soaked apartment, we were. We weren't but we never had to find out.

Houdini proved to be continent, however that works. There's a second sphincter--shoot, you don't care. Houdini never missed the box. He began to lose weight. He's a big cat but had ballooned to almost 18 pounds, so he endured his fair share of fat jokes too. He lost weight, and he became more friendly, and he stopped isolating himself and he started acting like the cat we had adopted.

Last night, I was sitting on the couch with my wife and we were watching something-something on the Roku, the Art of the Steal, I think. Houdini ambushed a bottle cap and batted left and batted right between his paws and moved frantically and pressed his chest towards it and erupted into an end over end acrobatic flip and landed and attacked again. I felt regret and joy. I had given up on Houdini, not just that he might live but that he might be happy again. And I thought about all the things I care about, that sometimes reward me but often punish, about the stupid Seattle Seahawks and this rut they've found themselves into, and how in the moment of life the hope we desperately search to see is never to be found and yet still somewhere out there.