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June 30, 2007
I have news, I told Q as he came down to breakfast.


I've got an answer to the question we've been asking ourselves all week.
He took a bite of his egg; I could see him thinking. Something from Washington Week in Review last night? Something from the Democratic candidates debate at Howard University?

It's close to home, I said.

Q was digging into his grits pretty well, but was no closer to guessing my surprise. It was time to spill it.

Kitten is a boy!

Aha. You caught him.

Yup, Turned him upside down and there he was.

Well, well.

Betcha he'll fix Ben's wagon when he grows up.
Kitten could be just what Ben needs in his life. Somebody who won't be scared half to death by his pheromones. Not that he has even the vaguest idea what to do with what God gave him: Ben is the most virginal of virgins.

Well, well, Q said again.

Should we change his name now that we know he's a boy?.

I don't know. To what?

I don't know. Is it wrong for a boy cat to be named "Kitten? Is that irony? For a big cat to be called "Kitten?"

Finally, a question an English professor could actually answer. No, that's not exactly irony. Diminishment, certainly, but I wouldn't call it irony.

Well, it seems like irony to me.
I went out to weed. Q could chew on that distinction for the rest of the day.

His gender unknown until we could catch him, Kitten has been "Kitten" for over a week. I think it's too late now to name him "Butch" or "Arnold." But what if he grows into a 15-pounder? What if he's enormous? Will having a name like "Kitten" cause him pain and anguish?

Kitten sits on a chair he has claimed on the back patio and carefully washes his tiny paws. Then he lies there in the sun for an hour or so, keeping an eye on my comings and goings, in case it looks like I'm going to turn him upside down again -- he didn't like that. You're a funny little one, I say to him as I pass with the watering can. He ignores me.

"Kitten" it is. For better or worse. It'll be one of the givens in his life, part of the hand he's dealt. He'll have to come to terms with it as best he can, same as the rest of us.

A Boy Named Sue
-lyrics by Shel Silverstein
music by Johnny Cash

My daddy left home when I was three
And he didn't leave much to ma and me
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
Now, I don't blame him cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me "Sue."

Well, he must o' thought that is quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from a' lots of folk,
It seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I'd get red
And some guy'd laugh and I'd bust his head,
I tell ya, life ain't easy for a boy named "Sue."

Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean,
My fist got hard and my wits got keen,
I'd roam from town to town to hide my shame.
But I made a vow to the moon and stars
That I'd search the honky-tonks and bars
And kill that man who gave me that awful name.

Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July
And I just hit town and my throat was dry,
I thought I'd stop and have myself a brew.
At an old saloon on a street of mud,
There at a table, dealing stud,
Sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me "Sue."

Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad
From a worn-out picture that my mother'd had,
And I knew that scar on his cheek and his evil eye.
He was big and bent and gray and old,
And I looked at him and my blood ran cold
And I said: "My name is 'Sue!' How do you do!
Now you're gonna die!!"

Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes
And he went down, but to my surprise,
He come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear.
But I busted a chair right across his teeth
And we crashed through the wall and into the street
Kicking and a' gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.

I tell ya, I've fought tougher men
But I really can't remember when,
He kicked like a mule and he bit like a crocodile.
I heard him laugh and then I heard him cuss,
He went for his gun and I pulled mine first,
He stood there lookin' at me and I saw him smile.

And he said: "Son, this world is rough
And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough
And I knew I wouldn't be there to help ya along.
So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew you'd have to get tough or die
And it's the name that helped to make you strong."

He said: "Now you just fought one hell of a fight
And I know you hate me, and you got the right
To kill me now, and I wouldn't blame you if you do.
But ya ought to thank me, before I die,
For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
Cause I'm the son-of-a-bitch that named you "Sue.'"

I got all choked up and I threw down my gun
And I called him my pa, and he called me his son,
And I came away with a different point of view.
And I think about him, now and then,
Every time I try and every time I win,
And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him
Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!
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