“Hey, you could sell that.” It was my niece, Olivia, speaking. She was up for the weekend before heading off to Nottingham, and had come to drop off Dr. Linus Blueberry, an athletic tabby with a penchant for bullying cats, dogs and the occasional llama.
We were both considering the finished product sitting on the sawdust-strewn garage floor. About the size of a case of wine, I had built it out of lumber scraps and some cedar tongue and groove I had lying around.
It was, for better or worse, a litter box and I’d build 20 more of them before finally calling it quits and closing up shop last week.
“On Etsy,” she continued.
“Oh,” I said.
I’m not going to lie. I knew what Etsy was. I’d bought a beautiful cable-knit hot water bottle cover from the site last Christmas for Catherine. It had been made by blind women, knitting in the warm light of the whale oil lamp, on a bleak and storm-ravaged islet of the Outer Hebrides.
I wasn’t sure Etsy was the place for me.
And if it was, I was reluctant to admit it.
But she had a point. The litter box was, well, pretty cool.
I know. Most normal people buy their litter boxes. Only lunatics spend hours cutting, gluing and sanding their own, custom-made, kitty-shit boxes. And I do realize that what you are reading right now only adds to the considerable weight of evidence that I have lost my mind…that I have pitched my tent in the lunatic camp. I mean, when it comes to proof of being crazy, what is the difference between a shit-ton and a preponderance, anyway? In this one instance, however, I’m not nuts. Really. I’m serious.
You need proof?
Have you met Indy?
Well, Indy is THE REASON.
Situated at the end of the long trail of chewed up remotes, cereal boxes, headphones, LEGO, tampons, or anything else you’ve baked, saved, wanted, loved or have been looking for all week, there’s our devilishly handsome springer spaniel. He’s gone through every screen and dug every hole. This dog’s no stranger to the cops either, having been picked up by the Greenwich, Cambridge, Niskayuna, Ithaca and New York State police. Over the course of one week, he managed to kill, maim or disappear ALL of our neighbor’s chickens. They found him trapped in their coop. That crime spree got him a place, with distinction, on the county list of dangerous dogs. There was the time he gobbled down two pounds of pizza dough, which transformed the dog into a stumbling, fumbling, four-legged whiskey still. Had to get his stomach pumped like a goddamn college kid! He’s into the garbage, the laundry and loves the new sofa (especially when he’s wet). Don’t leave candy wrappers in your jacket or Indy will reduce that high-tech Patagonia, Marmot or NorthFace shell to so many brightly-colored Gore-Tex ribbons!
But if there’s one thing that Indy likes best of all, it’s litter-breaded cat turds. So, while many of us are introduced to the concept of responsibility through the chore of litter box cleaning, our kids remained blissfully deprived. That chore never needed doing. Ever. Thanks to Indy, it was always clean. I’ll confess that I probably wouldn’t have minded except for the fact that he’d celebrate his vice by shuffling around the house with a little kitty poo cigar dangling from his lip. He looked like a canine Winston Churchill.
So when our aged and humorless cat, Natalie, finally kicked the bucket (with a little help from Dr. Gray), we maintained a brief but respectful period of catlessness. But then the kids began dropping 40-megaton hints about a replacement. We were, they argued, engaged in a simmering ground war against a small but persistent force of rodents and a kitty surge, as they called it, was just what we needed. But it was the image of Indy snarfing down kitty McNuggets that dulled this argument and drew a tepid response from us parents. If we were going to upgrade to kitty 2.0, we had to figure out a way to keep Indy from burgling turds. And when an online search produced a litter box from Milan promising to foil Fido AND look remarkably like a Ferrari, there was a brief moment of consideration before the price was discovered. Catherine got no argument from me when she said, sweetly, “No way are we spending two hundred dollars on a litter box.”
Instead, I built one, myself, took its picture and sold it on Etsy for two hundred and fifty dollars.
They sold but, thankfully, they didn’t sell that well. Thankfully because I needed some off-the-books cash for a Boston Whaler I’d recently acquired. And thankfully because a part of me worried that this was it. That my ship would come in and I would owe everything; my condo in Vail, studio in Paris, flat in London, yurt on the Mongolian steppe, my fleet of tasteless cars and boats…to cat shit. A fortune built on the sale of litter boxes to sad, lonely cat people who need an intervention more than my overpriced feline paraphernalia. I’m sure I’d rather toil in obscurity. I’m quite happy doing that, after all. I never heard Sisyphus whine or moan about his day at the office, after all.