Sacred, Profane, Etc.

by pjmcbride


I attended a church-sponsored social event today, which featured…FREE BEER! (Which I just almost tipped over onto my desk.) I had a can of Busch Light, which was all that was deployed at first. The can said, “an easy-drinking light beer!” Well, now that I’m accustomed to apple ale (“Dear God, have I turned her into a drunk?” Nick asks, but God does not answer him.), beer of any sort is no longer easy drinking. But I persevered bravely, and by the time I was ready for my 2nd can, they’d brought out Coors Light, which was somewhat easier-drinking. And what do I do when I’m too scatterbrained to read, but too uncoordinated to do housework (“as if you need an excuse to not do housework,” Rom is thinking)? You’re looking at it.

Turns out, after taking a naked can of beer to my table, that The Thing To Do on these occasions is to pour your beer into a cup, so that everyone can pretend that what you have isn’t beer. But I am immune to social cues, and by the time everyone was onto their 2nd can, they had ceased to care and become even as I am.

Lo and behold, I ran into our first (and only–what’s up with that?) civilian director, who also trained me and Made Me What I Am Today, J.A.S., now retired. We were then joined by M.K.L., my confirmation sponsor, who helped train me spiritually, one might say. Now, the question foremost in your minds should be…


Both of the above individuals were able to offer surprising insights on this important question.

–J.S., who has seen me both drunk and sober, opined that I am actually more socially-acceptable after a couple drinks…taking the edge off, as it were.

–And M.K. stated that beer would actually help me fit into the context of West Side Catholicism. I happen to come from Milwaukee, a hotbed of beer-drinking German and Irish Catholicism, so the West Side seems very homelike.

So, the general consensus was that I need more beer. I took my unfinished 2nd can with me on the ride home, cleverly keeping it below the window line and out of view of any prowling officers. (I fought the law and I won!!)


(…cue the groans from everyone other than Nick)

The other day, after driving back and forth in front of my house honking the horn, I mean siren, until I came out, Nick stopped by for a visit. After the ritual exchange of insults (solemnly witnessed by his owner, who was riding along with him…I guess she can manage him), he said, over the police loudspeaker, “You’re making me uncomfortable. Step away from the car.” Now what could such a formidably-armed beast have to fear from little ol’ me? He then said, “You’re boring me. Go back inside.” And then he delivered himself of the opinion that his visit was surely the highlight of my day. Actually, the highlight of my day had already occurred at approximately 0215 that morning, but I was irked by his statement anyway.

BUT FIRST…FINISHED MY BEER, TIME FOR COLD PIZZA! And every time I look in the mirror, I notice that my hair is in disarray. This raises the question, Can hair get drunk?

I WANT THESE HICCUPS TO STOP. Maybe cold pizza will help.

Speaking of food, the bunch of bananas in the kitchen have a sticker saying, “Ready for the Big Game!” Ah, the traditional Big Game banana. (“What you do with that banana is none of my business,” Nick says primly, but really, who asked him?) (And could this be the reason he steals any bananas he sees I have at work?)


In the face of such flagrant provocation, I’m tempted to not write about him (“I want to see you begging, say ‘Forget it’ just for spite,” to quote Joan Jett), but since I couldn’t deal with the resulting tears, the alternative is to write something that will make him sorry he ever mentioned it. (Actually, I fear that would only be possible with the aid of a ride-along, but don’t tell him.)

And so, without further ado (because there’s been too much ado already)…


Once upon a time, in a back yard not far from here (outside my office window, to be exact)…

“Could I tase you? Just a little bit?” Nick asks. “More would be…inhumane.”

“Absolutely not,” I tell him, trying to concentrate on my book. His owner had brought him by for what she called a “play date,” and what I call “beast-sitting” (although I’d never sit on him, for fear he’d interpret it as a ride-along, take off and go flying through the air). She wanted to enjoy a spa day without him attacking anyone who tried to touch her.

“You don’t want me to have any fun.”

“True,” I say, still not looking at him. Out of the corner of my eye, I see him get up on his back legs and look into my office window, but the icons on my wall frighten him and he drops down with a hiss. “Tell me a story, then,” he says, lying down so I can see the silky tuft of down on top of his head, which he hopes I’ll find endearing.

I put my book down, with a sigh which hope he’ll find guilt-inducing, but you know how that goes. “You know, the world doesn’t revolve around you.”

He tilts his head, considering. “I don’t accept your primitive cosmology.”

“OK, I’ll tell you a story, then.” He sits up eagerly. “Once upon a time, there was a beast who bothered a dispatcher until she beat him. The End.”

He lays his ears back. “I don’t like that story.”

“Too bad. Great literature always stirs up strong feelings.”

“But it’s not convincing. You’re not authorized to beat me under these circumstances.” He sits up very straight and recites the Rules of Obedience, which, like all of his kind, he was required to memorize as part of his training. “The dispatcher is entitled to beat a disobedient beast only during working hours. The owner, of course, may beat said beast at any time.”

“Well, she told me I could when she dropped you off.”


“It was implied.”

He eyes my foot and begins to bare his teeth.

“And you”–I say quickly–“are not entitled to use force against me at any time–”

“–except during ride-alongs.” Damn, I was hoping his memorization skills weren’t that good.

We glare at each other until he begins lashing his tail, then I pick up my book again. And he knocks it out of my hand.

“Damn it, you–” I leap to my feet and start casting around for something to whack him with. He panics, screeches, and leaps up into the tree.

Now I understand why you don’t often see such beasts in trees. His panic intensifies. “How the hell do I get down?” He thrashes about, his tail snapping off several small branches.

“Um, fly?”

“I can’t! There’s not enough clearance!”

“OK, then try folding your wings–Calm down!” I say, a little too sharply, as he begins to keen. “Fold your wings. Slowly.”

The habit of obedience kicks in, and he starts to do as I say, but we hit a snag–literally. “I can’t–owww!” He is very loud, and I wonder what the hell my neighbors are thinking.

“Calm down. Hold still, let me see.”

He becomes quiet, but is still panting. Now I can see that one of the hooks on his wings has caught on a projecting bit of bark.

Now what do I do? I don’t think I’ve ever climbed a tree in my life. And even if I could, being up there with all those claws and teeth and such…Finally I get a Bright Idea.

I grab the long-handled pruning tool Rom uses to trim the tree branches. Unfortunately, Nick only notices that I’m holding something with blades at the end of it, and starts yelling again. “You’re going to clip my wings!”

“I am not. And you had them clipped when I trained you, didn’t you?”

“Not without anesthetic!”

“Look, I’m using the other end.” I hold it up for his inspection. “Now stay very still…”

Very carefully (and not without a bit of whimpering from the victim), I work the hook off the bit of bark and free his wing. He sighs and lays his head down on the branch, eyes closed.

“But I’m still up here,” he says.

“True.” Now what? Maybe he’ll eventually pass out and fall off the branch. But if Rom comes home before Nick’s owner comes to pick him up, seeing another male might cause fights to break out. So, I take advantage of his still-closed eyes to tiptoe closer, stretch up to get hold of the end of the tail dangling between the leaves, and, neat as you please, pull him out of the tree before he can dig in his claws. With a startled squawk, he tumbles to the ground, taking some leaves and an abandoned birds’ nest with him, and landing with a crash.

“Are you OK?”

He gets up and shakes himself off. “Yeah, I think so. My wing’s a little sore, that’s all.”

“Sorry I hurt your pride–”

“I have no pride,” he replies loftily. “Pride is a weakness that my enemies could use against me.”

“You’re confusing pride with dignity.  Dignity is what you don’t have. Stop licking yourself.”

“Don’t you want me to be clean?

…And then his owner walks into the yard and looks around. “I don’t remember seeing all these branches on the ground.” She turns to Nick. “Have you been very good, like I told you?”

Nick and I look at each other. “Of course he has,” I say.


…And sure, this should have been two separate posts. But I have two words for you–FREE BEER.