Category Archives: Tolerating Tweak

“Where Does It Hurt?”


Me: “Hey, Tweak.”

Tweak: “Hey.”

Her bones barely rattle. Tweak is a matted meatloaf on the couch.

Me: “You’re not feeling too good.”

Tweak: “I’m not feeling too well either.”

No, not a meatloaf — a baby bird. A drooling, anorexic sparrow.

Me: “Really? You’re going to go all ‘Grammar Nazi’ on me in your dying days??”

Tweak: “Am I dying?”

Long silence. In the last two weeks Tweak has lost one-third of her body weight. She has stopped grooming. She no longer eats.

Me: “I don’t know.” I pick at my mac and cheese.

Blood tests show that Tweak is not suffering from organ failure. Yet.

Me: “I bought you some Fancy Feast.”

Tweak: “Fancy Feast can suck my dick.”

A vet has confirmed that something is very wrong with Tweak, but they don’t know what.

Me: “Talking nasty is not going to put the weight on.”

Tweak nods at my hips. “You sure?”

I lean into the barb, take it like a gift. The point twists in my heart and flips my smile over. Caregiver’s schizophrenia.

Me: “You want some cream?”

Tweak: “No. Not right now.”

Me: “Oh, Tweak…”

I stab at my pasta, then throw it in the garbage.

Me: “Where does it hurt?”

Tweak: “Just point.”

A gentle, underpaid veterinarian with a smile as big as her student loans will sedate Tweak in the morning, and then poke around until she finds something she can fix. Or not.

Me: “I wish you could talk.”

Tweak: “Me, too.”


To be continued…


5 October 2016, Tolerating Tweak


My deflated sphinx.
My deflated sphinx.

“Behind Open Doors”


behind open doors


Tweak: “Is that snow on the deck?”

Me: “No, it’s just a sparkly mine field of my frozen tears.”

Tweak: “I want to walk on it.”

Me: “No, you don’t. You just want me to slide the door open six inches so you can stand in the crack and revel in how much heat you’re wasting.”

Tweak: “And then I remember about my princess feet.”


We both stare at the icy deck.


Tweak: “Carry me?”

Me: “Bite me.”

Tweak: “I’ll sing Adele.”

Me: “You wouldn’t dare.”

Tweak: “I’ll sing Adele singing ‘Frozen.’”

Me: “Don’t test me.”

Tweak: “Hello.”

Me: “My New Year’s Resolution was to exorcise more.”

Tweak: “Let it go.”

Me: “Like projectile pea soup.”


17 January 2016, “Tolerating Tweak”





“The Move: Part 3 of 3”

Me: “Tweak? Are you ready?”


Me: “I told you we had to leave this afternoon.”

Even louder silence. Nothing is as quiet as a disappeared cat.

Me: “We can do this the easy way…”

I raise this threat to an empty house. Really empty. Nothing left except cleaning rags, spider webs, and some furniture that my landlord stored in the basement two years ago, perhaps so he could move back here, which is exactly what was happening the day after tomorrow.

Me: “…or we can do this the hard way.”

Nothing left, that is, except for the Cage. The Cage is a Petco cardboard box with a folding handle that closes out the world, and closes in the rage. There is a blue towel swaddled at the bottom that has lain there for eight years. The Cage has been used six times. I have been injured seven. The towel is supposed to keep Tweak calm because it smells like her. What it actually does is turn her into a wolverine.

Me: “Fine.” I say to the air. “I’m sending The Boy to find you.”

I hand the Cage to The Boy.

Me: “Please wrangle the cat.”

Delegating shitty jobs to our children is why we had them.

The Boy brandishes the cage: “THIS IS SPARTA!”

That they make us laugh is why we keep them.

The Boy descends into Dante’s basement. I Swiffer out some cobwebs, listening.

The Boy returns empty-handed.

The Boy: “She is as far away as she could possibly be.”

Me: “Did she vote Republican?”

I follow him downstairs.

The Boy: “She’s under there.”

Me: “Under where?”

The Boy: “Worse. She’s naked.”

I peak beneath my landlord’s bed. Tweak is crouched in the far corner, legs folded, immovable. An angry meatloaf.

Me: “Come on, Tweak. This won’t be so bad. The ride is only two miles.”

Her eyes close even harder.

Me: “The new house has a basement, an upstairs, and two litter boxes.”

Soundless fury.

Me: “And a deck.”

The Boy: “Can’t you bribe her?”

Me: “She won’t eat people food and she’s immune to catnip. What do you suggest?”

The Boy: “Hookers and blow?”

Me: “Did she vote Democrat?”

I hand The Boy a broom and instruct him to move the bed.

The Boy: “Why am I always the bad guy?”

Me: “Believe me, I’m the worse guy.”

The Boy moves the bed and swooshes the cat. She dashes. I pin her to the floor, pick her up by the scruff of the neck, and wrestle her into the Cage. I am only bleeding in four places.

Tweak: “Suck. My. Cock.”

The Boy: “Obviously she voted Independent.”

The drive only takes five minutes. Tweak stops talking except for all the yelling.

I walk into the new house, put the Cage on the floor, and open the lid. Tweak escapes, tail twitching like a rattler’s warning.

Tweak: “You should probably never sleep again.”

Me: “Menopause is way ahead of you.”

She prowls the perimeter of the unfamiliar kitchen. She side-glides the leg of the familiar couch. She scowls at her food bowl.

Tweak: “Pour some nurdles in there and…. Hey, is that a deck? YOU NEVER TOLD ME THERE WAS A DECK!!”

Me: “Yes, I…! You’re right. I wanted it to be a surprise. Welcome home, Tweak.”


21 June 2015, “Tolerating Tweak”

tweak on porch
You never told me there was a deck


The Move, Part 2

Tweak is stretched out in a square of sunlight on the carpet.

Me: “Getting recharged?”

I cleared away boxes just moments ago. Tweak glides down and claims victory over the new warm surface, or, as Tweak calls it, a “solar panel.”

Tweak: “Gotta power up the sarcasma-tron.”

Me: “I don’t think of you as sarcastic. More like honest with a side of pissed off.”

Bowie-dog doddles in. “Better to be pissed off than pissed on.”

Tweak: “You told that joke in 3rd grade.”

Bowie: “You’ve been pissed off since 2nd.”

Tweak climbs into a banana box to prove it.


Me: “Have you calmed down?”

Tweak: “So how long before we have to move? Six months? A year?”

Me: “Tomorrow.”

Tweak: “I’M NOT READY!”

Me: “You don’t have to DO anything. You’re a princess.”


Tweak rolls over and offers us her pink belly, a peach ripe for worship.

Tweak: “Who will bring my food?”

Me: “Molly, the soft girl.”

Tweak: “Who will carry my scratching posts?”

Me: “The Boy.”

She flips upright.

Tweak: “The Boy will be here?”

Me: “Careful, Tweak. That was almost a smile.”


She squints to rearrange the happy. Clint Eastwood in fur.

Tweak: “And who wrestles the litter box?”

Me: “Guess.”

Tweak: “Don’t forget my sifters. I hate when my shit sits and the dog eats it.”

Bowie: “I don’t eat shit. I test it for humble pie. So far you’re clean.”


Tweak stretches out again in the sun, gorgeous despite the disdain. Maybe because of.

Me: “Tweak, do nothing.”

Tweak: “Got it.”

Me: “But please make yourself available for transport tomorrow afternoon at 4:00.”

Tweak: “Piss off.”


To be continued…


29 May 2015, “Tolerating Tweak”


sun square

“The Move, Part 1”


Tweak: “Do we even OWN any bananas?”

Me: “Does anyone ever really own a banana?”

Tweak: “There’s always a banana in the night stand.”

Me: “That’s not a banana.”


I muscle up another box full of books and carry it out to the garage.


Tweak: “Lift with your legs.”

Me: “Shut with your mouth.”


I load the third or hundredth box into my car and pause to make coffee.


Tweak: “Where are you taking all of this stuff anyway?”

I stir in some caramel sauce.

Tweak: “Is there a shelter that needs five copies of ‘Fight Club’?”

I pour in two Splendas.

Tweak: “Are you having a bonfire?”

I open the cream.

Tweak: “Did something DIE?”

Me: “Only my dreams.”


I toss her a milk ring. She freezes, alert to the misdirection.

Me: “Tweak…”

Tweak: “What.”

She bites off the consonant. Every hair goes quiet. Even her eyes are still.

Me: “Tweak… We have to move.”

Tweak bursts out of the banana box like somebody dumped spiders on her.


And then set them on fire.


Tweak: “What exactly is WRONG with you? Can’t you haunt just ONE house for a while??”

Me: “Tweak…”

Tweak: “You’re like the un-dead renter!”

Me: “Tweak…”

Tweak: “If I had thumbs I would drive a stake through your heart!”

Bowie: “Did someone say ‘steak’?”

Bowie-dog peeks her dopey head around the corner.

Tweak: “Wait, that would never work. THAT WOULD IMPLY YOU HAD A HEART!!!”


To be continued…

21 May 2015, “Tolerating Tweak”


banana box

“Freight Train Dog”

Tweak: “What’s wrong with your dog?”

Me: “It’s May. You know what that means.”

Tweak: “We’re all going to get a new ‘Uncle’?”

Me: “Thunderstorms.”

Bowie-dog is breathing like a freight train on the floor next to my bed.

Tweak: “It’s unfortunate your dog lacks thumbs. Amtrak could use a new engineer.”

Me: “Too soon, Tweak.”

Tweak climbs onto my chest. Not afraid, superior.

Tweak: “It’s 1:00 in the morning. Shouldn’t we be sleeping?”

Me: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

Tweak: “I know a guy.”

Bowie-dog lies longways and upright, not on her side. Head up, face down, barreling into a panic tunnel. Except that she never moves forward. She has wedged herself into a slender strip of floor between my bed and the wall.

Me: “Can you make it look like an accident?”

Tweak: “I can make it look like a meteor hit your windshield.”

Bowie-dog’s breath engine pumps in and out like a fur bellows from Hell. She is panting so hard and fast that the rug underneath her is soaked from hot fear.

Tweak: “I bet she’s doing 106.”

I cover my eyes with one arm. The rain pours.

Tweak: “That curve is only built for 55.”

Lightning flashes, the thunder cracks, Bowie-dog lurches and crashes headfirst into the nightstand.

Tweak: “Maybe you should check her black box.”

I roll over.

Me: “Uncle.”


18 May 2015 — “Tolerating Tweak”

“Pet Me”

Tweak, leaps on the bed and pins me in: “Why aren’t you petting me?”
Me: “I’m tired.”
Tweak: “But I’m pretty.”
Me: “Tweak, it doesn’t work that way. Both people have to want to.”
Tweak: “But I always want to.”
Me: “You only have to lay there!”
Tweak: “Lie.”
Me: “I am lying.”

Tweak stomps over my chest, flips her tail in air. Her ass reminds me that it’s an ass.

Tweak: “You should pet me.”
Me: “Tweak, I’m trying to sleep.”

She flips her body into an S-shape like a magic trick. Her impossibly blue eyes stare at me upside down.

Tweak: “Pet me.”
Me: “You’re giving me the bends.”

She stretches long and stabs my arm with a talon, then bashes her forehead into my ribs. Again. And again.

Tweak: “I. Am. Very. Pretty.”

So I pet her.

Tweak: “Learn from me.”
Me: “Kiss my ass.”
Tweak: “Exactly.”


17 May 2015 – “Tolerating Tweak”


Pet me.

“What’s That Smell?” – Part 1 (of 3)

I walk in the back door. Something has died.

Me: “Tweak?”

I open the kitchen trash. It’s Waste Manage-y, but not critical.

Me: “Bowie-dog?”

I scan the litter box and the carpets to make sure no one exploded.

Me: “Tweak?”

I check the fridger. The milk is old but not sour. There are eight kinds of cheese in the drawer, but even the pungent ones are on purpose. No rotting veggies, no meat papers. The oldest suspects are a handful of genetically-modified cherries from three months ago. I open the Tupperware and sniff. Probably still edible if you don’t mind Ebola.

Me: “Come on, Tweak. Life is just Ebola cherries. Where are you…?”

Tweak materializes.

Me: “Something died in here.”

Tweak yawns.

Me: “And why didn’t you take care of it before it went, you know, dead?”

Tweak squints, folds in half, tends to a personal hygiene emergency.

Tweak: “Mice are the devil’s hemorrhoid.”

Me: “AHA! I never said it was a mouse. How do you know it’s a mouse??”

Tweak uncoils from her work in the down-under.

Tweak: “What are the choices – badgers? Birds? You think this house is lucky enough to be infested by baby pandas?”

Me: “Eww. Especially if they crawl under something and die.”

Tweak: “What’s black and white and red all over?”

Me: “Tweak, no.”

Tweak: “A bamboo spork.”

Me: “You’ve crossed the line. Help me look for the smell.”

Tweak: “I’d rather eat Ebola cherries.”

Me: “That’s my joke! You can’t take my joke just because you deliver it better.”

Tweak jumps up onto the back of the couch.

Me: “Everybody in this house is useless.”

Bowie-dog slides into the dining room, nails scrabbling on the wood floor. She wags her tail and knocks over a bottle of Motrin.

Bowie: “Hi, guys! What can I ruin?”

Tweak: “My day.”

Me: “Who wants Ebola cherries?”

Tweak: “You know what died in here? That joke.”


18 October 2014 – “Tolerating Tweak”


tweak on stripes

“Pleased to Meat You”

Tweak: “What is that?”

Me: “It’s an oxtail.”

I am standing at the kitchen sink slitting open a package of meat.

Tweak: “What’s an oxtail?”

Me: “A tail from an ox? Or maybe a Lady Gaga costume.”

Inside the package are six latitudinal one-inch slices of… something. Bone surrounded by meat, surrounded by entitlement.

Tweak: “Are you going to cook it?”

Me: “Are you going to try comedy?”

I remove one of the raw slices and throw it out the back door. Bowie-dog dashes out from her very important job of holding down the living room rug. She hunts the oxtail all the way to the patio.

Tweak: “There are kids in Ethiopia who just starved in front of their computers.”

Me: “I will be gone for a long time today. This gives the dog something to do.”

Tweak: “You never give me something to do.”

Me: “Why would I give you something to do? So you could sleep on it?”

Tweak: “You have no idea what I do while you’re gone.”

Me: “Tweak, I have left for work at 8:00 in the morning, come home at 8:00 at night, and you’ve been in the exact same position except for somehow having armed yourself with the breath of a thousand tunas.”

I drain the meat juice from the package into the sink.

Tweak: “You can tune a piano but you can’t tuna meat.”

Me: “’Tuna Meet’ sounds like a great name for an online service.”

Tweak: “You really need a date.”

Me: “You want an oxtail?”

Tweak: “That’s an even better name.”

Me: “’Tuna Meat or Oxtail.’ It’s all a matter of taste, isn’t it?”

Tweak: “Or desperation.”

I seal up the remaining oxtails in a Ziploc.

Me: “My meat is dolphin-safe.”

Tweak: “Lady Gaga called. She wants her innuendo back.”

I toss the bag into the freezer.

Tweak: “And your dog just threw up.”


21 August 2014, “Tolerating Tweak”



“In the Out of Doors”

Me: “Tweak, did you know that there are cats who live outside?” 

Tweak: “Live? Out… there?”

Me: “Yes. Outdoors. On the other side of doors.”

Tweak cocks her head toward me from the windowsill where she’s been tracking the mating ritual of two robins.

Tweak: “Someone has to go outside to pour nurdles in their bowl? Why would you do that to yourselves?”

Me: “No, no. These cats don’t have a ‘someone.’ They have never eaten nurdles.”

Tweak: “This is bullshit.”

Tweak turns back to the robins in the bush. The male leaps up one branch higher, the female down.

Me: “I would not lie to you, Tweak. I tell the truth so I don’t have to keep track.”

The male has brought the female a gift in his beak – a leaf. Or a maggot.

Tweak: “So they’re homeless?”

Me: “They’re not homeless, they’re house-less. They live between things.”

Tweak: “Were they born in barns??”

Me: “Sometimes. Certainly they were not nuzzled into the world by the kiss of a midwife onto a bed of Valium-filled Krispy Kremes like you, princess. No, feral kittens are born mewling and twisted, wrenched from the uteri of cat rapes, dropped wet and kicking behind dumpsters and under front porches all across this great land, raised on a steady diet of Taco Bell, locusts, and intimidation.”

Tweak: “What happens when it rains?”

Me: “Then we forget about them.”

The male robin leans over to present his squirming gift. The female lets the maggot fall to the earth.

Tweak: “Are outdoor cats… special? Inbred? Got one eye in between the other three?”

Me: “They are typically very healthy, although they tend to cuss like sailors.”

Tweak: “Your mother was a bilge rat.”

Me: “Your father had the pox.”

Tweak tucks her feet under her and watches for the next bird show.

Tweak: “Yo, ho, home.”

16 August 2014, “Tolerating Tweak”


In the out of doors.
In the out of doors.