Surrounded By Cashmere

realenough“We’ll leave you some little Vienna sausages to stick the capsules in,” they had told me.

The grey of the autumn morning … early morning sky … lingered over the muffled yellows and oranges of the near-Vermont foliage. I was still in New York and hadn’t reached the border where the black-top turned to gravel. Leaves covered my side of the road under the tunnel of low hanging trees. The other side had its leaves blown away I assumed by earlier morning travelers.  But my side having been less or even untraveled made the blanket in front and under my wheels appear foreboding. A car drove by, going the other way. “You mad?! Turnaround while you still can!” But I was sure what I’d heard had just been in my head … at least I hoped. I’d brought a CD to accompany me on my trip, but the grooves in the road made it skip … or rather … tremble. “Oh stop it. I’ll be fine,” I told myself. “They’ll have little Vienna sausages to stick the capsules in.” They’d told me that. I was sure I’d heard it.

I, the one voted most likely to succumb to an asthma attack due to animal hairs and whatever they have, had been asked to sit for some pets, pets with an “S.” To be more precise: some cats (see the “s” again?), some dogs (again plural), and … goats (Why don’t we just place the plastic bag over my head?). Goats?


Now I’m a city boy moved to the country. This has become less conspicuous of me, but still I’m not a-hay-between-the-teeth sort of guy … for example: the man mowing our backyard, at the new house in the country, had notified my wife and me that we had blackberries lining the yard. He sounded like it was a good thing, but me being from the city, of course had to ask, “Can you eat those?” Whenever in the past my family vacationed in the country, we were told, “Don’t just eat anything you find growing, it might be poisonous.” Being more cautious, and not wanting to die on my vacation, I took that to mean: don’t eat anything which doesn’t come out of a frozen bag … but not stagnant in my way of thinking … fast forward twenty years later … I ate some blackberries growing round my yard … now brace yourselves … which I hadn’t planted. Yes, insignificant for a country boy, but for a city slicker, a mile up hill in another’s … boots. Another time, another man who’d been working on the house or outside with a tree or the septic system, I can’t recall, told me he’d gone to the back to pee and noticed that I had some horseradish growing wild. “Oh really?” I said. He showed me. It looked like a weed. Fortunately I don’t care for horseradish, so I wasn’t tempted to eat some. Can we all say, “Hepatitis?” Well you get the idea … goats clearly are not my cup of tea in the morning … or whenever, as that goes.

The benefactors of my goodwill to watch the animals had been courteous to apologize for leaving me with an un-castrated male goat in heat … and when I arrived at their house … apologized again heartily for that on a note they’d fastened to the refrigerator … “Really, really sorry …” Three dogs wallowed around me, well at least the large yeti-like great Pyrenees, Max, did.


The small yellow beagle, Sammy, scratched behind his ear with his hind leg, looking to fall over with himself, and the chocolate, charcoal, vanilla Bernese, Willow, was on a perpetual sugar high … as if someone had commanded him to dance the polka, waltz and electric slide all at once, and all seemed unconcerned with my imminent fate of handling the goats, but were more likely unobtrusively looking forward to the entertainment. Cats slid and slithered over counters and furniture like part of the background of a moving picture, not saying much if anything, but stared hauntingly like Edgar Allan Poe’s cat, which had been stuck in the wall and never let him forget it. I don’t know their names, so don’t ask me.


They had a litter box I was told I needn’t change, and so not needing to walk them or hand feed them, they remained only anonymous hairy shadows to me, which was a preventative measure for my asthma, which might have been better if they’d been hairless, but then it mightn’t have been appreciated if I’d have shaved them.

“Oh joy.” One of the darling dogs has left me a warm present on the living room floor. I can’t find any paper towels, so I use up their napkins, making a mental note to bring something to clean up with tomorrow. That night I’ll be asked in an email how things went, and I’ll answer by saying I couldn’t find any paper towels so I used one of your curtains to wipe it up, and is now hanging outside to dry. I also will add that the wild cats outside, which I also have to feed with a bowl on the steps, for some reason find the curtain attractive.


Previously I’d been told that the indoor cats could be let out, but I’d asked, “What if they don’t come back?” and the answer was: “They will eventually.” I remembered that one of their past cats had been bludgeoned by a deer’s hooves. No … no, I was not going to be the means by which one of these hairy shadows got itself eaten by a moose … not on my watch. For a week they’d have to stay put, inside. The dogs I was told to put leashes on and lead them to the goat pen where they could do their business while I cared for the horned members of their larger family. Max, the Pyrenees, ambled no faster than a leisurely walk while Sam, the beagle, wanted to get to his spot just before the pen to pee, and Willow, still sniffing fumes from somewhere, heaven knows where, wanted to just get to wherever we were going because he knew wherever it was would be the best place ever to go … best place ever. To be fair, maybe he wasn’t delusional, but highly optimistic. Either way, he was easily pleased. So I led them to the pen where the six goats were. Bleating … if you don’t know why they call it bleating, then you’ve never been with a goat. It always sounds like they have their hoof in a light socket.

Have you ever seen those shows on the pyramids, and how they say they are signs that extra-terrestrials have visited our planet? If you want any proof that aliens have visited our planet, all you have to do is look at a goat’s eyes and you’ll know they have. They are the freakiest things I’ve ever seen, those horizontal slits.

goat eye

Okay, wait … that’s not the freakiest. Have you ever seen one of those old, 19th century fire hose nozzles? Basically … well here’s a picture:


Now you have. So picture that now, three times longer, and two times as narrow, and red like a blushing strawberry. Well I turn around and see such a nozzle rising up from under the clearly un-castrated male goat called Moonbeam, a cashmere goat if it makes it any pleasanter. I nearly jumped … “Whoa boy, where’s the fire?!” and he shows me by spraying his mouth. “Now that’s what I call thirsty,” I think with my mouth firmly shut, but there is an explanation, and I’ve been informed that it is actually an exceptional aphrodisiac to attract the females of its species (whatever actual species that is that comes from what actual planet they come from), and staring at this unsatisfying image … but reminding myself this is cashmere … I recall that I have some horseradish he might like.

I’ve given the goats their oats and hay, and been only speared once by this Casanova.

Moonbeam, A.K.A. Casanova

Moonbeam, A.K.A. Casanova

He’s kept in a pen with two other goats, while a mother and her two kids are housed separately. One of the little ones jumped onto its mother’s back, and stood there on all fours. I had an instant vision of grabbing the two and running off with them to join the circus … but I’m sure that wouldn’t have been appreciated either. So back into the house I go to get those Vienna sausages. I swing open the refrigerator door … but … but where are the sausages? Are you kidding me? I’d seen them demonstrate how to give the big yeti dog his two capsules by easily putting them and your arm, up to your elbow, down his throat so that he doesn’t spit it back up. I was being very sarcastic when I said, “Easily.”  Not an option, I need that arm to keep my other arm company. I’ve known dogs that’d eat your hand off just because your hand got too close to their mouth and they thought you were trying to take their food away, even if it was last night’s supper and partially digested and already headed for their intestines. “I need sausages!” So I made a mental note: not only do I need paper towels, but also sausages.


Being a brave soul … or stupid … I made an attempt at giving Max his medicine anyhow. I had been considering the refrigerator. There were enough food substitutes in there to replace the sausages I didn’t have, but I didn’t see them appreciating a four hundred pound dog and an empty refrigerator on their return. I also knew that poor Max would get blamed for it anyhow. What? Well why not? He’s the one who needed the medicine not me. Well I made the attempt … food free … slowly I lifted open his jowls and shoved the two undesirables in. Max’s tongue rolled like a stormy sea, and even though I was trying to get the capsules down, I had to admit that I was very relieved when that’s all that came back up. I replayed this violation, somewhere it’s illegal I’m sure, and watched the two capsules plop to the floor again … and again … and again, each time with the two capsules getting mushier and mushier and the dog looking more bothered … and oh look, it’s snowing. “Oh joy.” One of the capsules had broken and it was snowing drugs … delirious, I thought, “Maybe I should inhale. I might feel better.” But no, I didn’t. Remember what I said about things growing outside? Same here … I hurried to clean up the dusting before any of the hairy shadows or the other dogs decided to give it a lick. Done with what I had to do … or as close to it as I could get, I bade farewell to the dogs and left.


If I hadn’t had enough of animals for the day, a deer ran in front of me while I was driving home, then a pheasant, and then a chipmunk. I missed them all, but since they appeared to be getting smaller, I kept my eyes peeled for a suicidal insect. At home I stripped off my clothes and quarantined them and any possible allergens and or fleas in a plastic garbage bag. Having had worn a short sleeve shirt, I had some red welts from flea bites on my arm … note: wear long sleeves tomorrow … but I was breathing okay.

The next day, with long sleeves, I was met with more poo … and my nostrils still smelling yesterday’s predecessor. There seemed to be a tag team. The brown warm one was from one of the dogs, trademarks matched the poo from the day before, but the small discolored skinned-yam-like one with a root coming out one end had come from … most definitely … a cat. The spite had begun.


The cat’s wanted out, and having considered any form of protest, they must have figured this was the only language I would understand. Today I remembered to bring wieners to hide the medicine. It failed. Max ate the sausages and left the capsules … and it snowed again. If I get addicted to something it will be because of these second-hand flurries.

The next day I saw the cats’ protest continued and whatever-dog-it-was’ loose bowels still loose. The cat’s poo hadn’t been there at first, but when I left the room and then came back, I stepped in it, where it hadn’t been before. I knew none of the cats were going to tattle on the other. I’d never know which one it was, but I was sure they were all laughing on my expense. I was almost tempted to let the little buggers out … just to see. Not to see if they got eaten by a moose, but to see if the poo stopped.

So there I was, the following day, I went to feed the goats and got rammed by Moonbeam, from behind, and right away I knew it wasn’t the goat. I hadn’t worn my jeans with the torn bottoms and my red and target-designed undershorts showing through, the cats were to blame. I was sure one of them had stuck a piece of paper on my back which read, “Butt me!” Of course the goat had eaten it before I could get it, but I was sure that’s what it was … most definitely.

To round it down quickly, I survived that week. It hadn’t been just the goats or rather, Moonbeam alone that had tried me. Even behind their smiles and wagging tales I knew one of the dogs was the “Daily Dropster,” as regular as the local newspaper, and that will remain a mystery as well as what cat or cats played a role in antagonizing me … like Poe’s cat in the wall. But what kept me sane (Besides the miracle of not having an allergy attack)? I had to keep reminding myself that I was surrounded by cashmere … or maybe it was those early winters in the living room.


Real: The whole situation.

Not Real: The red and target-designed undershorts, someone yelling for me to turn around … and what about the note stuck to my back, saying “Butt me”? I still believe the cats wrote it … I won’t believe otherwise.

Roger McManus

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1 Response to Surrounded By Cashmere

  1. Thomas says:

    Roger, this was great, a very entertaining read. It made me laugh……Good Job!

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