Tuesday, November 8, 2016

An American Cat Votes

It was finally Election Day.  It couldn’t have come soon enough for Clementine.  Over the past several months the news had become more and more focused on one issue – who would the humans elect as their new president.  Clem was absolutely disgusted at the way some humans behaved towards each other.  Name calling, muck raking, complete fabrication of wrongdoing - and that was just the candidates.  The yarn lady loved listening to her morning news, and in other times Clem listened along.  Since late summer Clem just buried her head in the covers when she heard the sound of the radio.  And Facebook?  Well, if the yarn lady hadn’t blocked all those third party news sites from her newsfeed it probably would be even worse than it was right now.  

Clem had tried her hardest to figure out which candidate would be the best from the animal point of view, but by the time the primaries were over her best candidate was gone. Of the two remaining major party candidates, Donald Trump had no legislative record, so she had no idea of how he would exercise his leadership for the benefit or detriment of cats and other animals. Her efforts to elect a First Cat had also come to naught, as it was impossible to introduce a new national office.  She’d nearly decided to run for president herself until she’d found out that there was some silly requirement for the office holder to be a human person.  After calming down, she’d realized that she never could leave her beloved yarn lady, so even if she had been successful, she would have turned down the job.  In the words of the immortal Pat Paulsen, "I will not run if nominated, and if elected I will not serve."  Who knows, if she’d run someone might uncover some dirt in her own past, perhaps that time she’d dug up the neighbor’s tomato planter.  She’d thought it was a good place for an outside litter box, but it turns out humans don’t like it when you poop on their tomato seedlings. 

The yarn lady had gone out early in the day to vote and returned quite quickly.  It turns out that her little development has its own polling place, and as she gigglingly told Clem and Zeke, at 58 she was one of the youngest people there.  She settled down to read, and since the weather was so nice, she opened the windows in the kitchen and living room to get a cross breeze.  

Several months ago Clem had discovered a loose corner of the screen in the living room window, but had decided not to point it out in case she ever wanted to get out undetected.  She sat in the window enjoying the breeze off the lake and wondered about the election day process.  Rudy had filled her in on the intricacies of voting several years ago.  It’s like fishing.  People cast their ballots, just like fisherman cast their lines to catch fish.  The idea was to hit the candidate you wanted, or since everyone in the country was doing it at the same time, hit the candidate’s name.  There was a machine that displayed the names as targets, and until you pushed a special button you could try and cast as many times as you wanted until you got it right.  Once the voter was sure that all the votes were cast correctly, he or she pushed the button and voting was over.  Soon after she’d come to live with the yarn lady she’d discovered one of the neighbors liked to fish in the lake, sometimes for hours at a time.  He’d cast his line over and over.  If he happened to catch a fish, he’d take it off the hook and throw it back.  It seemed like a total waste of time to Clem.  He should have eaten those fish, or at least given them to Clem to eat.  She liked fish. 

It might be interesting to watch the humans cast their votes.  Perhaps if she asked nicely, she might even be allowed to cast a few herself.  She didn’t really expect that the humans would push the special button after her votes were cast, but it would be fun just to try.  Plus she was interested to find out what type of bait they used for the election process.  She hoped it wouldn’t be worms as she didn’t much like worms.  She was partial to tiny bait fish though, and after she’d cast a few votes perhaps they’d let her eat her fish.  

Clem fell asleep while thinking of eating bait fish, and awoke with vague memories of trying to maneuver a large lake trout to whack a computer monitor. It was longer than she was and in a state of advanced decomposition, coming apart as she picked it up between her paws.  She’d awoken suddenly when it had turned its head and said to her, “Why are you doing this to me?”  Ugh.  What a horrible dream.  She stood up and stretched to get the memory out of her brain.  Glancing at the clock, she saw it was nearly 3pm and decided that if she was going to vote she’d better get over to the polling place.  

The yarn lady was nowhere in sight, so Clem took a moment to let Zeke know what she was doing and nudged the damaged screen just enough to let her out.  It was a good thing she’d gone back to her slender size – a rotund kitty might not make it out.  She jumped down onto the ground next to a bush and considered her route.  The clubhouse where the voting was taking place was at the other end of the lake, so it would likely be best to just circle around it.  There was little cover for her, so it was not going to be a stealth mission.  She’d just saunter her way down the sidewalk as though she had every right to be there.  

It was a matter of mere minutes before she’d made it around the end of the lake.  She had encountered a grandmother supervising two toddlers and as soon as sticky hands reached out from squealing toddler bodies she’d made a run for it.  Clem made her way around the pool and shuffleboard courts and squeezed between some bushes so she could make her way to the front of the building undetected.  Happily, the front door was wide open, and Clem zoomed in once there was break in the flow of voters. 

Hugging the wall, she crept along behind the chairs set up in the room.  Most of the humans were heading to or coming from one of the corridors, so she headed in that direction.  As she again waited for a break in the flow of humans, she heard two women discuss how they were short of machines as one had broken down that morning.  They made tsk, tsk noises and cleared the hallway.  Clem made a run for it and skidded into the polling room.  There were dozens of people, some waiting in line at tables, others waiting to use what Clem assumed were the voting machines.  She positioned herself under an armchair to scope out the situation.  

She wouldn’t have to sign in, as she wasn’t a registered voter and even if she had been she didn’t have a last name.  She was royalty, and all she needed was her first name for the world to recognize and acknowledge her.  She looked at the people voting but all she could see was a person walking in front of a big video screen with curtains around the top part.  The curtains closed after the human entered and after some minutes the curtains opened again.  There were no fishing poles evident nor were there buckets of bait.  Perhaps Rudy had been mistaken?  This was boring, and there were so many people here there was no way she could get to one of those machines without being seen by a dozen people.  She watched for a few more minutes and decided to ditch the whole idea. 

The hallway was empty, so she walked back towards the front doors.  As she passed a room she glanced in and saw an unattended voting machine.  Perhaps this was the one that wasn’t working.  Well, she could at least check it out.  She carefully entered the room, checking to see if anyone was hiding in a corner.  No one.  The machine was sideways to her, and oddly, there was a chair where a human would have stood to cast their votes.  She jumped up on the chair and stood on her hind legs, front paws on the front of the machine.  

It looked fine to her.  There were rows and columns of names at the top, two sections at the bottom with lots of words and a small column of boxes to the right of the wordy boxes.  Clem looked around to see what she was supposed to cast to complete the voting process.  There were no fishing poles or even stones.  She recalled something in the Bible about casting stones, but then she remembered that one needed to be without sin to cast them.  Since humans seemed to think they all had done some sins, stones weren’t likely to be found.  Cats on the other hand, were born without sin, or even the ability to sin, so she would have grabbed some and hurled them at the machine.  

As she stretched to read the names at the top of the ballot her paw accidentally hit a small box next to one of the boxes full of words and the machine emitted a low beep sound. That surprised her so much she fell off the chair.  When she climbed back up she looked at the machine and there was an X in the box next to the word “Yes”.  Well, that was too easy.  She reached up and patted the box by the word “No” and an X appeared there and disappeared from the other box.  She was ready for the beep this time.  For a few minutes she stood on her hind legs, randomly swatting the screen until she’d hit boxes all over the face of the machine.  

Clem sat back and examined her efforts.  So, who had she cast votes for?  For president she’d whacked Gloria LaRiva, the Socialism and Liberation Party candidate.  Liberation was a good thing.  That was okay.  For House of Representatives she’d whacked Chris Smith, the Republican.  Jeffrey Cantor (D) for Sheriff, Rosemarie Peters (R) for Surrogate, Sue Fulton (D) for Freeholder, and Patience Nolan (Politician Without Politics) for Mayor were her other choices.  One row had no box checked, so Clem decided she’d try out the Personal Choice box.  When she swatted that one a keyboard popped up.  Who should be Councilman-at-Large?  Hmm.  She couldn’t be a councilman.  She was female.  Clementine carefully typed in Zeke’s name.  Since he didn’t have a last name she used the name of the human he’d been named after - Ezekiel Holman.  She hoped it didn’t matter that he’d been dead since 1874 or had lived in what was now Jackson, rather than Howell.  

She’d voted against casinos and for the realignment of money for the Transportation Trust Fund, and had Xs next to the names of various candidates for the Howell School Board.  Well, now it was time to see if the machine would allow her to finalize her vote.  She carefully put one paw on the Cast Vote button and pressed it.  The machine emitted a nasty buzz and the ballot was replaced with a screen that stated that the voting machine was offline, and that her vote had not been recorded.  It then said to report this to a voting official.  The curtains opened and she turned around and found herself face to face with a very surprised human.  

“Hey kitty.  This machine is out of order.  If you are a registered voter, and I kinda doubt you are, please go into the next room, sign in and vote there.”  He reached out to scratch her ears, and Clementine panicked.  She jumped off the chair and headed for the door at top speed.  She surprised a gaggle of old ladies in the hallway and streaked for the door, which happily was still open.  She ducked behind the bushes in front of the building and caught her breath before heading home.  

It was a beautiful autumn day, and Clementine admired the bright leaves on the trees as she made her way around the lake.   She picked up a particularly brilliant orange and red one by the stem as she stepped onto the sidewalk that bordered her end of the lake.  She waved the leaf around as she walked and then heard someone calling her name.  “Clementine – where are you?  Come on sweetie – I need to know you haven’t fallen in the lake!  Clementine….”  Oh, that wouldn’t do.  It was the yarn lady, and she was worried about her.  

Clem ran down the sidewalk and met the yarn lady, who looked very relieved to see her.  “Where have you been?  I saw the pushed-out screen and came out to look for you and couldn’t find you anywhere.  I was so afraid you’d found wormed your way through the fence to go chase the geese on the lake.”  Clem allowed herself to be picked up, still clinging to her leaf.  The yarn lady gently tugged it away from her, and looked at it.  “Did you come out to collect fall leaves? Well then let’s take this one inside with us.”

Ezekiel was waiting at the storm door, and was relieved to see Clem and the yarn lady.  They’d never been out the side of the house with the lake, and although she’d said she was going to vote, Zeke was afraid maybe someone had caught her and taken her to the cat pound.  As soon as they were all inside, Clem squirmed and the yarn lady put her down.  “Please Miss Clem – don’t ever go out that way again.  There are lots of people that walk along the lake, and I don’t know what I’d do if you were catnapped or the geese attacked you.  Stay here with us – we love you.”  

Clem licked the yarn lady’s hand in acknowledgement and settled in on the sofa, Zeke next to her.  It was time to share her adventure with him, and explain how he almost had become a Councilman-at-Large for the Township of Howell.  

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