Sunday, January 10, 2016

as 2016 continues: primo levi (reading) & the year of elliott (vomit & worms)

I may rue the day I made 2016 The Year of Elliot, but I will never rue the day I began reading Primo Levi. He and his Complete Works of … were my New Year’s Eve date, and I have yet to let him go. Below are just some of the things I’ve marked while reading. After that, you may want to stop reading, as I will be telling you about Elliott’s morning of vomit and worms. Don’t worry, you will be warned before we get there, which is more than I got. But, first: Primo Levi.
Sooner or later in life we all discover that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but few of us pause to consider the opposite: that so, too, is perfect unhappiness.
From “If This Is a Man”

We often went to question the engineer … but the engineer, who emerged like a lower-world god from his burning-hot cab, spread his arms, shrugged his shoulders, swept his hand in a semicircle from east to west, and answered every time, “Where are we going tomorrow? I don’t know, my dears, I don’t know. We’re going wherever we find tracks.”
From “The Truce”

We must therefore be distrustful of those who try to convince us using tools other than reason, or of charismatic leaders: we must be wary of delegating to others our judgment and our will.
From the Appendix to “If This Is a Man”

Dawn came upon us like a betrayal …
From “If This Is a Man”
Thank you, Primo Levi. Now:

Vomit & Worms Ahead

Except for the dead mouse by the door, the morning started like any other. The little stiff was just off to the side, on his back, front paws curled tight against his chest. The corpse gave me a start. I grabbed one of the leather gloves I use for handling firewood, put it on, picked up the critter by his tail, went out on the porch, flung him into the snow. I discovered later I’d thrown him about 20 feet, which I figured was pretty good for an old lady, but that’s neither here nor there for this story. And neither is the mouse, really, except for the fact that it was in that same spot, later, after breakfast, as I was about to put a couple of logs on the fire, that Elliott moaned, a low growl-like moan, an unearthly moan, a moan that I sometimes hear from Elliott when he is outside, about to devour a catch, and I think it is like a mealtime prayer—his outside, fresh-caught, mealtime prayer—but I’ve never heard this moan inside. I am startled. I look around. I see Elliott sitting, crouched low, right there where the mouse had been.

So, what, he’s mourning the mouse?

Now: Elliott’s body starts rippling, heaving, and I suddenly remember Elliott’s predecessor, Goldie, who vomited all the time, most routinely at 5 a.m., when he would roll off the bed, land with a thud on the floor, begin to heave, to retch, then, blah, vomit. Cats do this. They throw up. But Elliott; Elliott never vomits. At least not inside. Not that I ever see. But in this one split second it’s all coming together: Elliott is about to vomit.

I think I am going to move him outside, but, no, that is not going to work. At least, OK, now he is on the doormat, good, and then he erupts and out comes this massive amount of barely digested food and … OH MY GOD! WORMS! Long, white, skinny, writhing worms! This is so disgusting! And my mind is racing, and Josie is at my heels, just inches from the vomit and the worms, and his eyes are as big and black as those of a Keane painting, and Elliott is still hunkered down, still vomiting, two, maybe three more times. The last upchuck is just a spit of beige, so, phew, I think he’s done, but those WORMS are definitely NOT! They are moving and curling and waving and dancing and, OH MY GOD! I’ve got to do something about them worms!

I must have said something, spoken sternly, because Elliott ran upstairs and Josie backed up, then froze in place, stared at the worms while I got a plastic bag to scoop it all up and then another plastic bag, and then I threw the bags outside in the garbage, and then I put the mat in the tub and hosed it down, and all this in just a matter of seconds, or minutes, I don’t know, but that image of writhing worms … Forever.

I called the vet with the news, which was actually a news update because Elliott has been on antibiotics for a few weeks due to sneezing. It was just before Christmas that I rushed him to the vet one evening, having called just before closing, because Elliott had sneezed so hard he got a nosebleed, and he kept sneezing, and his nose was bleeding, and so blood was spraying all over, and there was blood all over this sheet he sleeps on, and all this seemed a little crazy to me, so we rushed to the vet, bloody sheet and all. By the time we got there, of course, Elliott was fine, no sneezing, no blood, and the vet was delighted I had brought the sheet along because he was able to scrape some blood from it and peer at it through a microscope. What he saw—thousands of something, I forget what—helped him to believe that antibiotics would do the trick. So it shouldn’t have surprised me, then, that the woman who answered the phone at the vet’s office on Vomit Morning was happy to hear that sure, I could bring in the vomit and the worms so the doc could take a proper look-see, and, for a while, that’s what I thought I would do, drop off the vomit and worms, which is why I was driving around that morning with a sackful of cat vomit and worms. But, as it ended up, I decided to forgo the vomit analysis and just picked up some dewormer, which was applied to Elliott later that day, and I also got another round of antibiotics, as Elliott is still sneezing, but it’s possible the worms were exacerbating the sneezing situation, so, now, with the worms eliminated (I hope) and the ongoing antibiotics, Elliott should be okay.

But here’s the thing: throughout all this Elliott has seemed absolutely fine. I mean, he hasn’t been moping around. He hasn’t been whining. He hasn’t been refusing to eat. His coat is sleek and he seems as plump and self-content as ever. I guess, as the woman at the vet’s office said: Cats hide it really well. Yes, I see. They hide it until they sneeze blood all over you and barf up worms.

Anyway, Elliott has seemed perkier the past few days. He wants to play with Josie, baits him by hiding around corners, darting out, racing up and down the stairs. Josie is at times excited by this, at times cowed, which may have something to do with Elliott’s claws. No blood, but once in a while Josie yelps, comes running to me, and then Elliott is puffed up, full of himself, I suppose, or full of something, anyway.


  1. Not like: The worms.
    Like: All of the excepts from your reading, especially the timely one: "We must be distrustful...."

    1. I am a little surprised you don't like the part about the worms ...

  2. I'm liking Primo Levi. Thanks for sharing him...

    Worms: When my dog had her puppies I had to de-worm them at some point. All mother dogs carry these worms in their tits, a strange thing that you would think evolution would have gotten rid of. The puppies seemed fine but when the deworming started it was one of the yuckiest things I had ever seen. Ugh.

    Hope Elliott gets all better soon!

    1. Worms in their tits? I figure there must be a good reason for that. Nature is so mysterious.