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Icepocalypse diary 

The Observer is seriously thinking about getting another cat.

Mr. Kitty, grand old man of The Observatory, was fairly normal when he came there from the animal shelter 10 years back: a skinny black feline with a white patch on his chest, rescued on New Year's Day, selected because he was the only cat in the shelter who didn't ignore us like hired help as we walked past their cages. His name on the card was "Nightmare," but that seemed to Spouse an invitation to drapery disaster, so the name was struck on the drive home, our new kitty yowling dejectedly in a cat carrier in the back seat. After a week of trying to come up with a new nom de chat for him — in which The Observer offered Monkey, Bill, General Beauregard, Gunpowder and Spot, all vetoed by our Beloved — she eventually settled on what she'd been calling him for days: Mr. Kitty. It's a good thing the names of both The Observer's grandpas were available when Junior was born, we told her, or else the poor lad would have been known as "Mister Baby" for the rest of his days.

The Observer was always a dog person, but Mr. Kitty has grown on us over the years, always calm and sedate, ready to camp on a lap or the arm of a chair whenever there's petting to be done. He loves to be patted, unlike most cats, for whom such behavior would probably be considered an act of war. He hovers over Yours Truly like Florence Nightingale whenever we're feeling sickly, to the point that we suspect he's preparing to eat us if we take a turn for the worse.

One issue, however, is that as he's grown on his owner, he's also plain ol' grown. He started out a normal-sized kitten, but over the years he's become positively prodigious in size, toes hanging off one end of the ottoman and furry behind off the other, 20-plus pounds, beagle-sized, thick-necked, so big that we'd never let him outside for fear he'd be mistaken for one of the legendary black panthers that are said to have once roamed Arkansas and taken down by trophy hunters. We can't figure it out. All he gets is one medium-sized bowl of dry cat food and a bowl of plain water every day. Unless he's ordering out for pizza while we're at work, he must have the damndest metabolism known to science.

Even so, cats don't live forever, especially not those who are burning the growth candle at both ends (please send your letters suggesting diet cat food and kitty exercise routines to: Fat Cat, Republican Party Headquarters, Little Rock, AR). And so, it's time to go from being a one-kitty household to a two-kitty household, God help us.

How will the Panther of Maple Street take it? Time will tell, but we're not letting him in on the plan until we bring home his new sibling Monkey or Bill or Max or Jesus Cat: Superstar. The Observer is handling the handle this time, friends. There'll be no Mr. Kitty Jr. in our household.

Speaking of the passage of time, over the weekend, at the height of the Great 2013 Icepocalypse, The Observer's dryer conked out. Push the start button, and it would only make a choked electric hum, with no spin and no fluff.

With the clothes mounded up, we did the only thing a man can do: We pushed it into the middle of the kitchen, dug a screwdriver out of the junk drawer, tumped the dryer over on its face and gutted the beast right there, Spouse looking on warily and speaking ominously of house fires and electrocution.

With the sheet metal backplate off and then the housing for the blower fan removed, we soon found the problem: double handfuls of wooden number two pencils, all of them broken to splinters and mulched in the dryer's blower motor. Shards of at least a dozen, remnants of Junior's tendency to shove a scribble stick in his pocket at school and then forget it there. Seems the holes in the dryer tumbler were the perfect size for a pencil to shoot through. Over the 10 years Junior has been incarcerated in the Temple of Learning, we'd collected quite a logjam.

We were so touched by the sight of them all — red, green, familiar yellow, a kind of hidden clock that marked his age and progress — that we didn't even mind cleaning them out. We will, however, frisk him thoroughly from now on when he comes in from school. As an added bonus, we plugged the dryer in, and it worked flawlessly. As of this writing, it hasn't burned down The Observatory yet. Until it does, somebody owes this Handyman plentiful huzzahs and kisses. We're looking in your direction, Spouse.

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