“Things We Don’t Tolerate”

Tweak: “Why are you home so late?”

Me: “I was on a date.”

Tweak abruptly halts licking her paw. She pulls out the rest of her toes and does the math.

Tweak: “Then why are you home so early?”

Me: “He was angry.”

Tweak: “What did you do?!”

Tweak jumps hard off the couch. Her feet are jackhammers of disappointment.

Me: “He wasn’t angry with ME. Please… I’m the world’s best first date.”

Tweak: “I hope so. We’ve rehearsed it enough.”

I stuff a Styrofoam to-go box into the fridge. Disenchantment ruins an appetite.

Tweak: “So what happened?”

Me: “He cursed his daughter.”

Tweak: “You curse at The Boy all the time.”

Me: “No, no. I use swears. WITH the boy. Calling him a ‘dipshit’ is a term of endearment.”

Tweak: “What’s the difference?”

Me: “Love.”

I brush my teeth and pull out a length of floss. I dangle the string just out of Tweak’s reach.

Tweak: “And the Angry Man?”

Me: “The Angry Man wished harm upon his daughter.”

Tweak: “That’s….”

Even Tweak is at a loss for words.

Tweak: “Mrow.”

Me: “Exactly.”

I slip into a nightshirt and slide into bed. Tweak collapses against my hip.

Tweak: “How did this conversation turn so serious? You wanna talk about clowns, or something?”

Me: “I think we just did.”


6 July 2014, “Tolerating Tweak”

“Fireworked Over”

Me: “We made it.”

Tweak: “So you say.”

Last night was the Fourth of July. O’er the ramparts we watched several neighbors with too much disposable income and too few disposable fingers blow things up into the sky. The bombs bursting in air probably included thumbs. Gallantly streaming blood, I hope.

Me: “I have a fireworks hangover.”

Sleep was impossible, for all of us. But true to her warrior spirit, Tweak lay next to me all night with weapons drawn.

Tweak: “Where does it hurt – right here?”

Tweak kneads her stilettos into the tender flesh under my arm.

Me: “Jerk. You would offer a porcupine to a panda.”

Tweak: “I would if it breathed like that dog.”

I look down at the floor. Bowie-dog has finally found rest after hours of blue, white, and redneck abuse.

Me: “Last night I fed her a melatonin tucked into a beef bite.”

Tweak: “The noise was bad.”

Me: “And then I fed her a Benadryl tucked into a beef bite.”

Tweak: “Did it work?”

Me: “Sort of.”

Tweak: “No, I mean ‘Did it kill her?’”

I pull a pillow over my head in the dawn’s early light.

Me: “How do you do it, Tweak? How do you stay above the fray?”

Tweak: “Me? I’m a frayed knot.”

Me: “You’re a beef bite.”


5 July 2014, “Tolerating Tweak”


Rocket's red glare
Rocket’s red glare

“Chasing Gold”

WHOOSH!! Ga-lump, ga-lump.

Tweak bats a wrapped Werther’s down the hall. The golden candy slides past my office door. I can hear her cat feet sort of running, sort of pogo-sticking, as she galumphs toward her prey. She is wearing it down with her weapons of mass cute.

Me: “Tweak!”

Tweak: “What.” (It’s never a question.)

She stops and squints into my room, catches me scanning OkCupid adverts.

Me: “Where’d you get the Werther’s?” (Distract!)

Tweak: “You left a trail.”

They’re not really adverts; they are profiles of single men that have been written by 12-year-olds. Or possibly chimps.

Me: “When I filled up the bowl, you mean?”

Tweak: “Maybe when you were out, I got up on the table.”

Tweak flashes me a look, then licks evidence off a fuzzy bean toe.

Me: “So, you were poaching.”

Tweak: “I only hunt them for the sport.”

I switch the screen to ‘Firemen R Us.’

Me: “Me, too.”

Tweak leaps onto my chair and digs her claws into my thigh.

Me: “Ow.”

Tweak: “What.”

She coils up on my lap, the chase now so much fool’s gold.

Me: “Hey, I have people to reject. Go get me a Werther’s.”

Tweak: “I can’t. There’s a cat on your lap.”

Me: “You don’t make no sense. And cats make terrible boyfriends.”

Tweak: “All that glitters is…”

Me: “What.”

And she falls asleep, pinning me to a fireman.


27 June 2014, “Tolerating Tweak.”

tweak at food station with werthers

“A Bird in Paradise”

I walk into the house and Bowie-dog greets me with a way-too-big smile.

Me: “Okay, hello to you, too.”

She wags her tail and practically dances into the back yard. I turn the corner to find… a bird. A bird standing in the middle of the living room. An outdoor bird, but it’s in my house. It’s as foreign as a tree growing from the floor. A terrified tree. (A petrified tree?)

The bird is stunned but alive, and it’s breathing fast in the center of a roulette of feathers and spittle and shit. And guarding this soiled intruder, high atop her pile of blankets, is Tweak. And by “guarding” I mean “ignoring.” With her eyes closed.

Me: “Tweak… what the…”

Tweak: “What.” It is never a question.

Me: “Um… why is there a bird here?”

Tweak: “A bird?”

She opens one eye.

Me: “And why is it alive??”

Tweak: “Alive?”

She opens the other eye.

I stomp my foot. The bird rattles and shits on the floor.

Me: “TWEAK!”

Tweak: “What.”


Tweak jumps down off the couch. She sniffs a trail of avian leakage across the hardwood floor and pokes her nose right up against the beak of the frightened hostage. The bird flinches and squirts out an oily grey symptom of serious concern.

Tweak: “Yep. It looks like a bird.”

Me: “Why didn’t you do something with it while I was gone?”

Tweak: “I was busy.”

Me: “Busy??”

Tweak: “Napping. I was exhausted from that frog debacle the other day.”

Me: “So you did NOTHING?”

Tweak: “I told that dog to take care of it.”

Me: “I believe that dog may have nearly suckled it to death.”

We both stare. The bird is damp. There are clusters of feathers like a blast pattern around it. The bird releases another stream of terror onto the floor and looks to me for salvation. Or possibly a towel.

Me: “I’d better put it outside.”

Tweak: “Keep it away from that dog. I think she’s in love.”


4 July 2014, “Tolerating Tweak.”

bird in paradise

“Obstacle Cat”

Me: “I dreamed I had to drive through nine inches of snow to see my family.”

Tweak: “Uh huh.”

Me: “But I didn’t have a pickup truck, so I traded for one with, um, favors.”

Tweak: “Yep.”

Me: “You don’t care about any of this, do you?”

Tweak: “Nope.”

Me: “Do cats dream?”

Tweak: “Only about not having this conversation.”


Tweak has sealed me into bed (again) so I lift the covers under her and roll her over like a clown barrel. Or, I TRY. Obstacle cats weigh 600 pounds.

Me: “I need to make coffee.”

She twists out of my way now like it was her idea in the first place and begins her morning ablutions.

Tweak: “You go, girl.”

She licks one front toe with the fervor of a congressman.

Me: “And then I have to go to work.”

Exhausted from all this listening, Tweak collapses and curls into a ball.

Tweak: “I’ll be right here.”


2 July 2014, “Tolerating Tweak”


tweak quilt 2

“The Over/Under of Dignity”

Tweak: “Hey, whatcha doing?”

Me: “You know, you could knock.”

Tweak has pushed the bathroom door open with her head.  I am inside, seated, wearing half a birthday suit.

Tweak: “And miss this opportunity for worship?”

Tweak skirts along the tile wall, stops at the foot of the throne, and stares. Not at my face.

Me: “Hello, Kitty.”

Tweak: “Can I come up there?”

Me: “NO! Jeeze, Tweak, is nothing sacred?”

Tweak: “You make me pee in a box.”

Me: “And never once have I tried to get in your lap!”

Tweak: “I bury my own shit with my hands.”

Me: “Thankfully, my people have evolved.”

The toilet paper roll is empty, so I change it, threading the tissue under.

Tweak: “UNDER? You call that evolution?? You’re an abomination.”

I do not tell her that the reason the paper threads UNDER is because a PREVIOUS cat used to bat at the thing and unroll miles of it onto the floor causing shortages in several third world Walmarts. But Tweak does not believe in previous cats, so I keep my mouth shut.

Me: “Under, like taker. Under, like garments. Under, like my breath.”

Tweak: “Over, like my dead body.”

Me: “Under, like your mom.”


29 June 2014, “Tolerating Tweak”


over under

“Love Smells Like Crayons”

Love Smells Like Crayons.

[Reprinted from 14 July 2009]


I was attending a church study group, but it was not at a church. A handful of us had gathered on a Monday night in a friend’s living room in a northern suburb of Detroit. The living room faced west and opened out over a lake through two enormous picture windows. The view of swans and sky and possibility was dazzling. Michelangelo would go silent here.

It was high summer. The days were long and the sunsets were longer. Despite the beauty, I was fidgeting because I was, well, alive. The group was debating the pros and cons of “patient endurance” (I was leaning toward “against it”) when the doorbell rang.

I leaped up to answer the door. It wasn’t my house, but leaping up for any flimsy reason is something at which I am gifted.

There was a man at the door. This house was in a remote location, down a long winding driveway through the woods to the lake. Anyone who came all the way to the door had to be determined. To do SOMETHING. If he was here to kill me, I had gone out with a beautiful view. If he was selling cookies, I would fetch my wallet. If he was a missionary of some kind, I would tell him he was preaching to the piano player.

The man was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. He was about my age, about my size. Dark skin, dark hair, Latino. He was carrying nothing.

“Hi. I live across the lake,” he said, pointing, “and I couldn’t help but notice that people have been putting motorized boats into the lake from your easement out back. And see, we have some rules about…”

Damn, no cookies. And this sounds official. I’d better go get someone who knows something.

“Okay, hang on. You need to talk to Ben who owns this place,” I said. “I’ll go get him,” and I started to close the door. Then my inside voice yelled at me for my poor social skills and I apologized to the stranger. “I’m sorry. Come on in.” I smiled and motioned for him to follow me.

“So, what’s your name?” I asked, leading him down the hall.

“Ray. Ray Rosales.”

I halted mid-step. He nearly crashed into me.

I shook my head. Nah, couldn’t be. That’s a common enough name. I started walking again.

“Huh. I knew a Ray Rosales once. Where did you grow up?”


Full stop. No way. This is ludicrous. I spun and faced him. The right age, the right size, the same pretty caramel-colored skin… I wanted to sniff him.

Where in Detroit?” My eyes narrowed and I dared him to answer correctly.

“Near Eight Mile Rd.”

My heart forgot to beat and I couldn’t swallow. I stuck out my hand to cover the fact that I was having a stroke.

“I’m Erin Waugh.”

“Erin…” he breathed. And his shoulder fell against the wall.

There’s that risk that you will say your name, and the other person will hear… crickets. And maybe you will try to nudge their recollection: “Don’t you remember when we…?” and the guy will say, “You’re a crazy person. Leave me alone.” But not this time. No, astonishingly, a real-live memory was staring back at me, as stunned as a deer on Eight Mile. Ray Rosales, the first “love of my life,” was standing in a hot hallway with me. And, judging by the way he was recovering, he remembered.

Ray Rosales had been my very first crush when I was 10 years old. My family lived in Detroit in the late 60’s just south of Eight Mile Road, and Ray and I attended Bow Elementary School. Ray lived one street over and he, like all the neighborhood kids, visited the Waughs’ “Kool-Aid House” every single day. (A “Kool-Aid House” is that one house on the block where the mom has a seemingly endless supply of snacks and drinks and “patient endurance,” and all the kids in the neighborhood know it and they swarm there like adorable leeches.) Ray Rosales and I rode bikes and played on the swings and fought with our little brothers.

At least that’s what we did in public.

Ray and I were also, as fifth-graders, both conveniently appointed to be on something called “Attendance Duty.” Or maybe it was “Pencil Sharpening.” Or “You Clean My Eraser, I’ll Clean Yours.” The details of this assignment were immaterial. What DID matter was that once a week, Ray Rosales and I had to collect some important thing from Mrs. Sullivan and, even more opportunely, had to deliver this important thing to an empty art room on the first floor. By ourselves. Together. To an empty art room on the abandoned first floor. I don’t know why it took two of us to deliver this important thing.

Well, maybe I do.

It was behind a desk in that darkened, unsupervised, adult-free art room, that Ray Rosales kissed me. My first kiss ever. A lot. Many. I liked it. A lot. To this day the smell of Crayolas makes me dizzy. And makes me stop in hallways so that people crash into me. Right there in that art room Ray Rosales and I pledged our undying love and vowed to get married and have two babies named Ian and Esperanza to satisfy our ethnic diversity.

But it was not to be. My father was transferred out of Detroit shortly after that art-room kiss (kisses, plural; the two of us volunteered for this terribly difficult assignment for weeks on end), and my family moved to Ohio. I had not seen Ray Rosales since I was 10 years old when we were both giddy with the responsibility of “some important thing,” yet here he was decades later, miraculously, leaning against a wall in a house in Michigan looking like he was trying hard not to get caught by Mrs. Sullivan.

I summoned my Christian virtue and invited him into the picture living room. The group was friendly and we all sat and chatted with Ray, looking out over the lake, trying to discuss the original reason for his visit, namely the invasion of zebra mussels and the introduction of, I don’t know, typhoid or something. I had sort of stopped listening. Ray kept losing track of his own story and turning to me with that 10-year-old’s smile.

“Hey, remember when I pushed you on the swing and you fell off?”

“Remember when we told your little brother to ‘go get lost,’ and he did?”

And the one he didn’t say: “Remember how crayons smell like desire?”

I know you’re wondering, so… Ray Rosales is married, has no kids, and is a tool and die maker in Warren. And, yes, he’s still cute as hell (and has all of his floppy black hair!). He lives right across a picture window from some friends of mine in Lake Orion, Michigan, in the same town as me, where, as the sign says, “Living Is a Vacation.” And sometimes a flashback.

I gave Ray Rosales my card and he gave me his phone number, and we will probably never see each other again.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go color.

14 July 2009

crayola heart


“Tweak Is Bad, Boys”


One sip. I ignore whatever it is.

“Eeek! Eeek!”

Two sips. The sound is insistent, like a baby with a nail gun, but still, I’m busy.

“Eeeek! Eeeek! EEEEEEK!!!”

This had better be important. I spin around in my computer chair. Tweak has materialized out of nowhere in the center of the floor, her head bent forward, burdened.

Me: “Tweak, what are you… holding?”
Tweak: “Mfph fmmpt you smpth.”

Tweak drops a Brussels sprout on the carpet. The Brussels sprout stands up, falls over, then scampers lopsided down the hall. Tweak pounces, snatches it up in her teeth again.

The Brussels sprout: “Eeeek!”
Me: “Huh. Vegetarians are liars.”
Bowie-dog: “Hey, guys. Whatcha doing?”
Me: “Tweak is abusing a mouse.”
Bowie-dog: “TIM-BITS! What’s she gonna do?”
Me: “Soak it in spit and drop it in my shoe, apparently.”

The mouse runs into my closet; Tweak runs after the mouse. Bowie-dog runs after Tweak, and I chase them all with a string of swears and a camera. We are like Tom and Jerry on an episode of “Cops.”

Me: “Where did it come from, Tweak?”
Tweak: “I ain’t gonna rat out my dealer.”
Me: “I just want to plug the hole in the border.”
Tweak: “Snitches is bitches.”
Bowie-dog: “Tim-bitches!”

The sprout has gone quiet now that it’s in hiding.

Me: “Tweak, hear me – I’ll go easy on ya if ya just tell me where it is. It’s not YOU I want, it’s the Brussels Mouse.”

Tweak licks her paw and ever so subtly nods at a Keen sandal. Bowie dives forward but I dive faster, paper towel in hand, and I scoop up the mouse.

Brussels Mouse: “Eeeek! EEEK!”
Me: “The Quicker Picker Upper!”

I gently release Brussels Mouse into the wilds of the front yard. I turn back to find both perps hanging their heads.

Me: “You know what you did wrong, right?”
Both: “We interrupted your coffee.”
Me: “Now I have to start over.”

I pour water into the Bunn and sing, “Bad boy, bad boys.”

Wait for it….

Tweak: “Whatcha gonna do?”


14 July 2014, “Tolerating Tweak”


tweak sideways pretty



“When I Was Born”

Tweak: “Tell me again about when I was born?”

Tweak has chased her milk ring under the fridge and now has nothing to play with except my free time.

Me: “I have no idea what sort of abomination you slid out of. You were four years old when I found you coiled in a box at the local PetSmart in a puddle of your own urine (or someone’s).”

Me: “It was ‘adopt-a-cat’ day and I was vulnerable. You were a rebound adoption. My beloved ‘real’ cat had just died of kidney failure and I needed something soft and pathetic to lay my blame on.”

Me: “When I got you home (yes, I paid money for you – the equivalent of two goats and a wheel of cheese), I discovered that your belly fur had been chewed off (by you, I assumed), your tail was crooked and naked as an armadillo’s, and your eyes jittered. You were brain-damaged. You could not track flies on the window, and when you tried, your head jangled back and forth like Michael J. Fox.”

Me: “And you were afraid of everything. Cereal, tissues, and me imitating Michael J. Fox. It took a full year of nourishment, love, and tolerance to turn you into a human being.”

Tweak: “No, no. Tell me the OTHER story about when I was born.”

Me: “A unicorn wept and a panda laughed, and I lifted you up from the marriage of their souls.”

Tweak: “Ah. That’s the one.”

Tweak curls up on her tower of blankets and sleeps.


26 June 2014, “Tolerating Tweak”


Tweak – the reason we tolerate.

Tweak steps

“Nurdles and a Nap”

Tweak: “Why didn’t you tell me she was coming to see us??”

Me: “She didn’t come to see us, she came to see YOU.”

Tweak: “But I YELLED at her!”

Me: “Tweak, you yell at everybody.”

Tweak: “I forgot to use my inside voice.”


Tweak is agonizing over her social awkwardness after last night’s surprise visitor. She is pouting on the night stand in the shape of a sad meatloaf.


Me: “So what did you guys do while I was gone?”

Tweak: “We took a nap.”

Me: “And then what?”

Tweak: “And then we took another one.”


Tweak scans the floor for redemption, lays her head on her cotton ball feet.


Me: “And did you eat?”

Tweak: “She found an ice cream sandwich in the freezer. She let me bite some.”


Tweak picks her head up, remembering.


Tweak: “Then she poured nurdles into my bowl. All the way to the top.”

Me: “So it was the perfect date.”


Tweak jumps off the nightstand, tail high and proud. Recovered.


Tweak: “I thought you said dating was hard?”

Me: “Not if you have the right partner.”

Tweak: “Isn’t this where you’re supposed to be funny?”

Me: “You don’t think this is hilarious? My inside voice is roaring.”


Tweak struts over to her food station, peers into her bowl. It’s full of memories.


Tweak: “I know how you could make your dates better.”

Me: “How?”

Tweak: “You could yell more.”



25 June 2014, “Tolerating Tweak.”


molly and tweak 1