January 31, 2009 § Leave a comment

After a long walk in the cold and a bad movie, Medicine for Melancholy, that might have worked if the lovers—the only two characters—had spoken more than a line or two every fifteen minutes, I’m sitting in bed having a cup of tea with milk and honey, remembering that classic bit from British novels where the old lady says, “Now, dearie, have a nice cup of tea and you’ll feel as right as rain in no time,” and the young heroine, suffering from a love affair or murder attempt, always does. (Question for another day: why is rain right? Because the gladiolas need it? Or the Brits don’t feel the world’s in order unless there a muzzy bit of drizzle somewhere near? Or is just the alliteration?)

Speaking of love and murder, when I was packing to come uptown, I went to put an unopened chocolate bar in my bag, and found a mouse had nibbled a tiny portion from three of the corners. I’d told Philip the mice hadn’t been around lately so I didn’t mention it but I wanted to; the nibbles looked so tidy and considerate. I was reminded of Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory making a chocolate bar last for months by keeping it under his mattress (or was it a hole in the wall?) and eating it one crumb at a time, each time unwrapping the silver paper with reverent anticipation. That’s what I want the mice to feel when they scent the chocolate chips at the end of the tunnel-shaped electric mousetrap.

See if you can spot the mouse nibbles

See if you can spot the mouse nibbles

Some people (but no rodents) can feel that anticipation even knowing that death is at hand. My aunt Vera was one of them. She was quite happy in her hospital bed at the end, having no doubt that she’d be in Heaven soon, conversing with Jesus, probably over tea or a dry martini. She was a very strict Catholic, always warning others about hell, but not the type to worry that her own soul might come up short.

Samuel Johnson famously said, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Many of us have had this experience as a result of the economy’s death spiral, but not, apparently, House Republicans. Nor Mayor Bloomberg, who wants to tax movie tickets, haircuts, and cable TV.  How about a stupidity tax? Progressive, so if you’re both rich and stupid you pay more.


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