Why Cats Need Nine Lives

You might think if you can care for human children that you are qualified to care for a cat, but you would be wrong. Three children came to stay for part of the summer and brought their kitten with them. This feline was offered as a kind of bonus to the package deal—you take three, lovely children for a few weeks, and we’ll throw in a cute kitten—free. (Not that I paid to take the kids, nor should I add, was I being paid. In retrospect, I should have demanded remuneration in order to buy life insurance on that cat.)

Let me say that I like animals but prefer they live with other people. I have never cohabited with a cat, but millions of people do it and enjoy it. I refer you to all those proud cat videos on YouTube.

The kitty, the cuddly beast, the adorable fur ball with fangs (we would never call him “bad kitty” because there are no bad cats, only good cats who sometimes make bad choices) was granted his own bedroom and allowed to destroy the entire house for one half hour twice a day. In preparation, a quilt, two rugs, and a felt doll were removed.

Despite all the preparations, no one—not the cat videos, nor my cat-owning friends, nor the children’s mother prepared me for the fact that the kitty had an exuberant death wish.

First, he attempted exsanguination by breaking a ceramic lamp and wallowing in the sharp shards. He engaged in a failed electrocution, knocking a clock into the litter box so that he might chew and pee on the cord. During his house rampage, he crawled on his back under the rocker of my chair, his paws wrapped about the wood, and nearly became crushed cat under my weight. He tried to choke on the silvery ribbon dangling from a balloon.

In between these flirtations with death, the fanged fluff ball developed his repertoire of piteous cries at night. I would hear him mewing woefully at 3:00 in the morning, and imagining him in death throes, I would leave my bed to find he merely wanted to play, wanted his head stroked, wanted to run around the dark and sleeping house with me in pursuit. That cat was training me to fulfill his every whim.

Well, I would not be bullied by a kitten, no matter how adorable. Besides, I was losing sleep; therefore, one morning when the kids left for camp, I decided to nap. No sooner had I gone to bed then there was a horrible wail followed by intense silence. Enough was enough. I would not get up. From the depths of apathy, I reminded myself that I’d never be forgiven if that feline died on my watch.

When I opened the door, he didn’t pounce on my ankle. I looked around. That cute, furry, fanged feline had hung himself on the curtain cord. Given that the drapery cords have huge plastic pyramids on the ends, I had not anticipated the kitty’s ingenuity. The cord was asphyxiating him, so he couldn’t cry; the strings from the shredded curtain sheers were tangled about his body. He was utterly helpless, but still with the living.

I saved him—yet again. Please, no need to nominate me for any awards. Having the five year old, whose first act on entering the house was to rush upstairs and hug her beloved, warm and living kitty, instead of a cold corpse, was reward enough.

How many lives had this kitten used? More than nine? I could only count the close calls I’d witnessed. What attempts might have happened for which I had no evidence? The anxiety of keeping him alive was shortening my own life. At night, lying awake waiting for the next meow, I wondered if it was legal to bury a cat in the yard. I wondered how many years of therapy the children would need when he died at my house. I wondered if natural selection might not be the method by which species evolved because if it were, cats should have died off ages ago. Recently a friend confided that she worries she might turn into a cat lady. That will never happen to me.


Photo at the top of the page is “Trio” by Andri B is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Fear Fact(or), Fear Fiction

If, one day while watching TV on the couch, your wife offhandedly mentions she went to college with the tall, dark-haired guy in the Bud Light commercial, under no circumstances should you…

  1. Suspect that “went to college with” is code for “once had amazing sex with” (Good luck with that…);

  2. Notice that when she tells you his name, she does it in a way that seems like she’s only pretending to have to think about it;

  3. Read anything into the way she remains outwardly neutral when his commercials come on, and my god are on all the fucking time (Her neutrality, you surmise, has to be some kind of affected disinterest to mask the way she’s fantasizing about him);

  4. Ruminate, while being intimate with your wife, about how, though you’ve had more sex with your wife than any other man has, he’s probably a kind of high-water mark for her that you’ll never reach;

  5. Look him up on IMDB and find that he’s acted in or produced movies with direct-to-DVD titles like Sidewalk Blondes, Hollywood Escapades, and All American Zombie Drugs (you didn’t even have to make that last one up) where he played characters with names like Dougie, Judd, and Colt;

  6. Care enough to note that he’s appeared in commercials for both Bud Light and Miller Lite, Burger King and Carl’s Jr., Honda and Chevrolet, and DirecTV and DISH, and then use this observation to judge him for being nothing more than a corporate whore without a shred of loyalty (I mean, what kind of guy does that?);

  7. Compare yourself to him because in nearly every measurable way—height (definitely), looks (likely, if we’re talking industry standards), sexual aptitude (probably, ‘cause let’s be honest…), creative output (sure, they’re mostly commercials, but there are so many of them), finances (ha!)—you fall short;

  8. Comment to your wife that you saw “Commercial Man” or “That Guy” (as you’ve taken to calling him, breezily, of course, because hey, you’re cool about all this…) had a small recurring role on a wildly popular—but you both agree a very unfunny—TV show as a kind of test to see if her opinion of the show begins to change;

  9. Reveal that you saw the above info on his Twitter profile (“I act in stuff”) that you are now following;

  10. Construe, a couple days later when she changes the channel as you enter the room, that you’ve caught her in the act of watching said unfunny show;

  11. Work into causal conversation with your wife after yet another one of his commercials, that previous to his “big break” on The Amazing Race, he appeared as a contestant on a Christmas episode in season four of Fear Factor where his listed occupation was “dog walker” (Highlight of the customary banter with Joe Rogan prior to his competing in the first challenge: Rogan: “What are you going to do with the fifty thousand if you win?” That Guy: “Turn my garage into a mind and body relaxation studio”);

  12. Find it gratifying watching him whine and complain to Joe Rogan for being eliminated (“It’s not fair, man!”) after eating, but failing to swallow, the ant-covered cod egg sack in the allotted 20 minutes because he was cracking a bunch of smartass jokes the entire time;

  13. Fill pages in your notebook with Roger Ebert-like screeds on his acting abilities after you watch the “acting reel” his agent posted to YouTube;

  14. Go on the Message Boards on his IMDB page and write anonymous threads where you refer to him as “Hollywood,” criticizing him for getting his teeth capped after his reality show “career” took off, and start a rumor about a certain sexual fetish that involves a harness;

  15. Imagine a fantasy scenario where you and your wife encounter him at her college reunion (do they even have those?), and when she sees him, it becomes clear from the smitten look on her face that they did, in fact, have wild, animalistic sex, (probably in his dorm room under some fucking Bob Marley poster), but when she approaches him, he doesn’t appear to remember her, which for some reason pisses you off even more than the porn-loop images burned into your brain of your wife fucking him do;

  16. Be as bothered as you are that by some cruel twist of fate, he shares the same birthday as your son;

  17. Observe that in his 30 commercials he delivers what would amount to less words than you’ve written here up to this point;

  18. Study his commercial “work” deeply enough to realize he’s got a pretty shallow bag of tricks as an actor: a charming, slight head tilt, smile, and eyebrow raise; a kind of wide-eyed, chicken-necked look of surprise; and a twist-of-the-mouth-plus-shoulder-shrug good for an everyman “huh?” gesture;

  19. Waste precious time trying to understand his appeal—what is it, exactly? He’s handsome, sure, but in the totally normal way your neighbor or the teller at the drive-thru window at your bank is handsome; he’s unremarkable, is the point;

  20. Conclude that since he plays an Average Bro just-cooking-some-burgers-on-the-grill-sitting-across-from-a-date-at-Applebees-looking-for-cell-phone-reception-having-some-beers-with-buddies-kind of character, it must be his very ordinariness that makes him appealing;

  21. Wonder if, at this point, he simply keeps getting commercials because he’s gotten them before…he’s recognizable as “that guy from that one commercial,” so casting agents get him more work;

  22. Attempt the (for you) very complicated math to understand how it is that That Guy’s commercials air, seemingly, every goddamn commercial break, but soon realize you need help and so craft a bit of a fiction in order to get a math instructor you work with to help you (you tell him you are working on a “story” and provide him with a mostly contextless word problem featuring your best Google-aided approximation of the number of commercials that air each hour, the number of hours of commercials that air each day, the average number of channels, and the number of commercials an actor has appeared in), but he points out that because there are too many variables—how many distinct commercials air each day, how many of the actor’s commercials are currently airing, how often do they repeat, etc., etc.—he needs more context and so you don’t reply to his email;

  23. Tell your wife that once, when she and your son were out of town, you tried to stay up for 24 hours to count how many times you saw him on TV (you fell asleep, but not before making 9 tallies in your notebook, which seems, somehow, mathematically impossible…);

  24. Disclose that you found a streaming-service-only show where he’s the male lead; the show is about a couple who meet at a bar and it follows them through their relationship, and that—goddammit—the show actually looks decent;

  25. Concede, even to yourself, that as you’ve immersed yourself in his work, you started to kinda understand his appeal, and, well, sorta like him (Don’t think of telling anyone);

  26. Ask your wife, straightaway, if she ever slept with him; instead, stew over it long enough—several years or so, but who’s counting?—that you feel compelled to write some kind of hybrid-story-essay-list thing in the hopes of somehow working through your, admittedly, petty insecurities (Good luck with that…).



Tim Eberle is a New York based writer and comedian, like everybody else who lives in Brooklyn. His writing and performances have appeared in McSweeney’s, Splitsider, DNAinfo, the Santa Fe Literary Review, Jewish Life Television, Jewlicious.com, Heeb Magazine, and The Madcap Review, among others. Most recently, he was seen performing at the Peoples Improv Theater in “I Am Not A Man: A One Sort-of-Man Show” (a sad show, which he wrote alone), and in the sketch review “Sad Men And The People Who Love Them” at Theater 99 in Charleston, South Carolina. Read more at timeberlecomedy.com

Eckleburg: What drives, inspires, and feeds your artistic work?

Tim Eberle: I think that my work is largely defined through my taking the inconsequential seriously. Because the true stuff of life is found in the mundanity of it all. After all, things are only “mundane” because those things are repressively relatable. And – at the risk of alienating anyone reading this with the pretension dripping from the following rhetorical – what better subject is there than the “repressively relatable”? I like to work from the inside out – starting with the first-person-confessional and eventually moving on to an exploration of the larger context.

Eckleburg: If you had to arm wrestle a famous writer, poet or artist, either living or dead, who would it be? Why? What would you say to distract your opponent and go for the win?

Tim Eberle: Like anyone who has ever pushed through the entirety of Gravity’s Rainbow, I’d love to settle into an arm wrestling match with the great Thomas Pynchon. My motivation there is partly due to the incredible respect that I have for the man (and the pursuant desire to express that respect through a wordless contest of physical strength), and partly due to the fact that I truly believe that anyone who has written something as incomprehensible as Gravity’s Rainbow probably deserves to get his arm twisted at least a little bit. Plus, I think it would be an easy win. There’s so much physics involved in arm wrestling that I assume he would be immediately distracted and forfeit the match so that he could go off and immerse himself in thoughts of parabolas. (Besides, the whole “recluse” thing basically ensures that, even if I were to lose, chances are decent-to-good that no one would ever find out about it anyway.)

Eckleburg: What would you like the world to remember about you and your work?

Tim Eberle: I’d like the world to remember that I once arm-wrestled Thomas Pynchon and won. I’d also like the world to remember that there was once a time when words mattered, when nuance was celebrated, when brevity was not synonymous with quality, when articles were more important than headlines, when questions were common and answers were fluid. (But mostly that I was stronger than Thomas Pynchon.)

Eckleburg thanks Tim Eberle for sharing his Selfie Interview with us. Read more about Tim Eberle

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