Checkers: 2003 – 2011

We got Checkers when she was three years old, and she was a small bundle of nerves. She hid in a box in her foster home’s spare bedroom, and we had to chase her to get her into the carrier we’d brought with us. We knew going into this that she was a neurotic cat, but we were used to cats with issues.

When we got her home, we put her carrier into the library and she immediately ran and hid behind the books. For days we barely saw her, though we have pictures of her peering out at us between books of Lovecraft stories (I really wanted to make a lolcat with one of these pictures and caption it, “Lovecraftian Cat Lurks In The Library”, but we figured not many people would get the joke).

For weeks, she stayed in the library. Then she moved to the linen closet, and that became her new lurking spot. It was a good spot for her, because it was unmolested by the other cats, and it was easy for us to play with her. She didn’t play much at that point, but she did enjoy catching her claws on a dangled shoestring.

Eventually, she moved on from the linen closet to the office. It was here that she and I connected, as much as we did. She hid on one of the shelves, behind one of our miniature gargoyles. I’d throw small toys at her — sparkle balls were her favorites — and she would bap them back at me. This game could go on for hours. And every now and then, when I would walk into the office, she would throw one of her toys at me to get my attention for another round. We were becoming buddies. But then she started to pee on my desk, and the time I caught her doing it — I picked her up quickly and darted to the litter box — more or less marked the end of our relationship. She didn’t throw the toys at me anymore after that, and she became less enthusiastic about the toy bapping game.

When we moved to our house in Sacramento, she quickly marked out the lower level as hers. We never saw her upstairs. She didn’t interact with the other cats, and we joked that she would have preferred to be an only child. She was happy like this, living downstairs, spending most of her time on top of one of the cat trees, occasionally (and only half-heartedly) playing the toy bapping game with me.

Jennifer noticed that Checkers was losing weight and becoming lethargic, so we took the cat to the vet, who found tumors in her intestines and diagnosed her with lymphoma. She wasn’t in pain, the vet said, and there were some pills that might hopefully shrink the tumors. We tried the pills — or, rather, Jennifer tried, because there was no way Checkers would let me near enough to pop a pill down her throat. Soon Jennifer was unable to administer the pills either, so she took Checkers back in for a shot that would hopefully do the same thing.

It didn’t work.

We came home from a play late Saturday night, and Jennifer found Checkers lying under the bed. She’d thrown up, and was struggling to breathe. We bundled her up in a thick towel and headed off to the emergency veterinary hospital so that they could administer the last relief, but it was too late. Checkers died in Jennifer’s arms. Tearfully we left her body at the vet’s for disposal — there simply isn’t room in our back yard at this point.

Checkers’s death was a milestone of sorts for me. She wasn’t the first of our cats to die, but she was the first of the cats that Jennifer and I chose together after our marriage. So even though she and I did not get along that well (aside from that brief time in the office in our old house), I miss her. She used to yell at us from downstairs whenever we put out wet food for the cats, and now that hollering has been silenced, and it’s hard. It’s strange to go downstairs, look at the cat tree where she used to lurk, and not see her there.

So long, Checkers. I’ll miss you.

Justice League #1: A Brief Review

This is a quick review of a comic book by a guy who doesn’t typically read comic books.

Not that I’m a total ignoramus when it comes to comic books and graphic novels. I’m a big fan of the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, as well as the Preacher series by Garth Ennis, and I love Fables by Bill Willingham. I’ve read Watchmen, and several issues of The Walking Dead. During the 80s I climbed aboard the Dark Knight bandwagon, and for awhile I was enthralled by everything that Frank Miller did.

But when it comes to Superman, Spiderman, Batman, the Fantastic Four and so on? I have to admit that I just don’t bother. These comics have been going on for so long and have storylines so complicated and all the titles are so tied in with each other that I figured I’d never have a prayer of simply picking one up and figuring out what’s going on, let alone getting engaged in the story. What is the meaning of this bit of dialogue Superman says in JLA #252? Well, it requires that you know what happened in Wonder Woman #’s 159 through 182. That sort of thing.

So when DC Comics announced that they were rebooting fifty-two of their titles, starting over from scratch, I was kind of excited. Of course, the part of me that thinks that reboots, reimaginings, remakes, and very likely to be bad ideas in general was skeptical. But what the heck: since I’d never kept up with the titles, perhaps this reboot was the perfect time for me to start reading comics fresh, getting in on the ground floor, and understanding what’s going on without having to go and borrow my buddy’s complete collection and spend a year doing nothing but getting caught up. This, I thought, was my chance.

So I called Big Brother Comics in downtown Sacramento to reserve a copy of Justice League #1, and during my lunch break I walked down to pick it up (during my walk I dodged a bicyclist, tripped over a curb, and ripped a hole in the knee of my favorite jeans — but that’s another story). It sat on my desk at work mocking me for a few hours until I was able to get it home and read it.

Now, despite my relative ignorance of comic books, I have been exposed to Batman and Superman, but this is a total reboot and so I tried to read this with the perspective of someone who’d never read anything about these characters.

First impressions, then. Well, it’s kind of short. This guy who’s dressed up in heavy-duty armor with bat ears is fighting something that appears to be an alien (it breathes fire and has an ugly face, so it must be an alien) in the downtown of some large city, when a guy in green shows up. The first character, we learn quickly, is Batman. The second is Green Lantern. The city is Gotham City. Oh, and all this is taking place five years ago, when no one knew what a superhero is. Though Green Lantern and Batman seem to know each other.

The two of them talk while Batman continues to fight this alien monster. We learn that Green Lantern is kind of a pompous jerk, and Batman is a grumpy sourpuss. We also learn that Green Lantern is part of a galactic corps of Green Lanterns, and he’s responsible for the sector of space that includes Earth, which is why he was drawn to Gotham City: the alien attack that Batman was warding off.

But this alien — who lets out some sort of warcry just before blowing up, I won’t reveal exactly what — is not alone on Earth. Green Lantern reveals that there is at least one other alien on Earth that needs to be investigated: some dude in the city of Metropolis who goes by the moniker Superman. Green Lantern, powered by his magic space ring, believes he can take down Superman if necessary. Batman isn’t so sure. Guess who’s right?

Anyway. I enjoyed Justice League #1. It was a worthy purchase. Will I keep on buying comics in the rebooted DC universe, and try to keep up with all of the new stories? I’m not sure. Jennifer took a look at Justice League sitting on our dining room table and asked, “So are you going to start collecting comic books now?” to which I replied, “I doubt it.” But I think I’m going to buy a couple more next week when the next round of old/new titles are released.

We’ll see.