Hemingway killed my novel, but the Maine coon did the deed. He's a squirrel-tailed, tortoiseshell-striped thing who spreads blizzards of cat fuzz whenever he quivers his tail. Sure it's pretty, but tufts of pinky-length cat fur get everywhere. His whiskers are worse; they're longer and they're sharp, too. While this may sound cute to you, I'll tell you right now there's evil lurking behind his gooseberry-colored eyes.
I'm getting ahead of myself. For now all you need to remember is that the coon cat sloughs fur and whiskers everywhere. Anyhow, I have this one professor-never mind what her name is-who will occasionally accuse the entire class of "self-infantilizing." The humanities are turning into a sales pitch, she says, pegging the blame for it on our collective lust for bullet-pointed lists and executive summaries, instead of a longing to learn things on our own. How will brains ever grow from this salted earth?
As a GSer, being accused of "self-infantilizing" cuts to the quick because I'm trying so very, very hard to prove to everyone that I'm not. Of course she's completely right and I am. The thing is, that after nine years of harebrained waffling, what I need most of all is to discipline and structure my thought process, and if I can mash my brain into a shape that society finds useful by aping what my professors say, then by all means bring on those summaries. My problem, and it's one that I probably share with many of my GS peers, is that just when I feel like I'm finally on the brink of pulling it all together, I revert back to those habits that kept me from graduating the first time around.
Over the summer, I dreamed of becoming the GS version of Kaavya Viswanathan (albeit without her alleged plagiarism and retracted advance money). I gathered all the short stories I'd written about my boozy adolescence in India and combined them into a novel called Indian-Made Foreign Liquor.
As I hit page 171, my computer began belching smoke. Then it refused to do anything other than display an ominous flashing bomb icon. I hauled the thing to Tekserve and confirmed my worst fears. They removed a wad of mangled bedbug carcasses, the allegedly pest-repellent powdered thyme we'd sprinkled around the computer's cutesy flowerpot base, and a single Maine coon whisker coiled up in my hard drive's mechanical guts. The story was gone, and I hadn't backed it up.
The coon cat did it on purpose. It was an aggressive deconstruction of my occasionally over-wrought prose. As I crossed the hundred-page mark, the Maine coon began curling around the computer's cooling vents. He knows I don't have the heart to roust him, so he'll sit there for hours preening his ruff, no doubt waiting for one of those lethal whiskers to fall off and get sucked into the mechanism.
It was the perfect crime. He knows I'd never dare disturb his grooming ritual, or kick him off his new perch. But why would he do this to me? Discovering the malfeasant Maine coon's mens rea took some work. My rationale hinges on the Maine coon's two extra claws, irrefutable proof of his direct descendancy from Ernest Hemingway's famous brood of polydactyl cats.
Bear with me. Our coon cat came lumbering out of the cane-break one afternoon in Tampa, Florida while my girlfriend Amy and I were dealing with her father's funeral. The cat was cuddlier than the mottled trash ducks, the armadillos, and the baby gators lurking in the swamps around the condo, and though he did bite, he didn't cling like the local snapping turtles did. It was only months later, whilst examining his unusually large paw tufts that we realized he was polydactyl-in other words, he was a Hemingway cat. And, since the Hemingway house was relatively nearby in Key West, didn't it stand to reason that the great man himself posthumously dispatched this cat to kill my novel?
The sad thing is that I'm only half kidding about concocting elaborate conspiracies involving my Maine coon to excuse myself from not backing up my own hard drive. The disgusting thing is that I've been doing this for years (e.g., the reason that I didn't get into Columbia College in 1997 was that my English teacher, Mrs. Thomas, sent in her recommendation late, not that the dean of admissions might not have been as amused by my strategy of getting 5s on my AP exams and F's in my classes as I was). To this day I still catch myself doing it: telling myself that I was late to class because the M60 got stuck in traffic on the Triboro again, instead of leaving earlier to take into account the fact that the bus is late every single time I get on it.
I just took my GRE, and I'm spending the next week or two soliciting recommendations for graduate school. But as I was researching programs, I realized that I couldn't apply to one program I really would have liked. I had taken a class with the program director and blamed a late paper on cat hair fouling up my keyboard. If that isn't reason enough to finally stop "self-infantilizing," then I don't know what is.