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Outside the Box


Shit. The cat was going outside the box. But I’ve dealt with the personality disordered and knew this particular challenge might be within my purview. I just needed to think outside the box.

I spent almost a week in NYC with my grandson, holding him against my heart. I could stare at his face for days, smelling his baby-ness, watching his expressions change from serenity to “I’m having a bad dream”, from “I love my mommy and my daddy” to a lopsided and slightly inebriated looking upturn of his perfect little mouth, from pursing his perfect little lips as if he were going to whisper to me and an exquisitely audible exhalation of baby breath to exposing that perfect little tongue.

I stayed in my son’s friend’s apartment. Deal was I’d feed the cat, scoop the poop, add fresh litter to the litter box. The cat followed me through the apartment, poetically gliding against my legs.

My daughter-in-law’s mother was there the week before and reported that the cat shit in the bathtub once. If I were extra considerate, sweet talking the tabby, petting her, saying something like, “Hey, pretty kitty, let’s call a truce,” maybe I could avoid this, and she’d conduct her business appropriately.

Nope. Cat shrink-ery was in order—a little reality therapy with an emphasis on responsibility. I instructed as to expectations, the box and litter’s function, her obligation as a house pet to me as waitress, opening a can of food especially for her, and to me as housekeeper, cleaning her doo-ings, from the litter box. This yielded no good result.

So, I tried staring into her eyes, as George Bush did with Putin—you know, looking through to the soul. Failure. Probably the cat’s meows translated to other felines, “I’m working on that in therapy,” an excuse to continue anomalous behavior.

I said goodbye to the cat, so charming, except in that very significant area. She’s capable of a political career.

I cried, well, like a baby, when I left my grandson, this itty-bitty love who’s peacefully adapting to life outside the womb.

On the train back to Baltimore, I powered my computer, checking latest news—the continuing mystery of MH370—and watched a CNN video showing photos of children who were on the plane. Imagine if mainstream media presented images of children who’ve been incinerated by drones and photos of children who’ve been displaced by war.

Next, I read about the White House’s decision to curb the NSA’s surveillance program, ending the government’s collection of Americans’ phone calls. Who’d believe this? They’ve peeled away the Fourth Amendment with support from those who actually believe the program protects their safety. Plus, they’re lurking, skulking, examining our Internet searches, social media, library selections, medical and financial records.

Then, I scoured reports on Crimea, Ukraine, Russia, Putin’s muscle, and all that Obama bluster. There’s been some serious scolding by the Kill-List Chief who has expanded war, drone warfare, and extrajudicial assassinations but who accuses Putin of contravening international law. Whew—that affectation of righteousness must be fatiguing, could be humorous if it didn’t weigh so lethally on countries plundered by Western gluttony.

Obama’s rebukes are embarrassingly juvenile. I’m paraphrasing here but this is the message: “Look, you’re just an inconsequential REGIONAL power and the U.S. is the ONLY GLOBAL landscape architect.” Irate he is about someone else’s fingers and footprints on what is only to be manipulated on behalf of American interests, because the world is U.S. territory.

Just now I detoured to Google News. Saw this on the screen and it’s no surprise. Merely more U.S. intrusion—to weaken the Cuban government, using Twitter messages aimed at young people. “It is unclear whether the scheme was legal under U.S. law, which requires written authorization of covert action by the president and congressional notification.” Legal under U.S. law? Please.

And more: The George Bush art exhibit. Interviewed by his daughter, Jenna Bush-Hager, for NBC’s Today, Bush said he was “annoyed” when images of his work were posted online. “It’s an invasion of one’s privacy.”

That cat isn’t the only one shitting outside the box.

Missy Comley Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email:

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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