Capone the Communicator

My latest YouTube rabbit hole is talking cats.  I can’t get enough of Billispeaks, a channel featuring Billi the cat and her human.  Billi is an eleven-year-old cat who has learned to use a system of push buttons on a soundboard to communicate.   Each button plays a word or phrase.  “Billi.”  “Mom.” “Mad.”  “Pets.”  “Food.” “Love you.”  “Noise.”  “Play.”  “Outside.”    

The buttons and board currently used in Billispeaks are from FluentPet.  The board’s made of  interlocking, honeycomb-shaped HexTiles, each with room for up to six buttons.   The FluentPet system was originally designed with dogs in mind, but Billi has adapted to it beautifully.   (Probably it helps that, according to one source I found, “Mom” is a speech pathologist.)   Billie asks for food, pets, catnip, and play.  She complains about noisy neighbors.  Her favorite word is “mad.”    

I showed my husband Dave some of the videos.  “Maybe we should get this for Capone.”  

Capone flicked an ear in my direction.  He’d followed Dave into the bedroom a few minutes before and made himself quite comfortable on a black sweater that I’d left on the bedspread.   

“Are you sure?” said Dave.   “He’s already a bossy cat.”  He pitched his voice up into the range where we all address Capone—it warbles around from approximately the F to the A above middle C—and scratched Capone’s chin.  “Yes, you’re a bossy cat, aren’t you.”  Capone closed his golden eyes and purred.  

I thought about it.  Did I want to know what Capone was thinking as he shed on my sweater?  When he sat on the piano bench in my studio and stared at me?  I recognized that my speculations—maybe he thinks my hair looks pretty today?—were comforting fictions.  What if Capone was happily pondering whether to start gnawing at my flabby upper arms or meaty thighs in case of an unfortunate fall down the stairs? There had been no way to know for certain…until now.    While we wouldn’t be discussing Spinoza or tax reform with Capone, maybe the buttons could help with the mystery meows that he emits sometimes.   He sounds distressed, maybe “mad,”  but his food bowl is full, he doesn’t want to play, and all the humans are in the house.      

Billi starts many of her communications by pressing the “mom” button.   Mom comes over to the soundboard area, which seems to be set up in the middle of the apartment, and taps the Billi button.   In one of my favorites, Billi responds “Outside.”  Billi follows Mom to a door that open onto a deck or patio area, but it’s covered with snow.  Billi takes one look and walks away.   A few minutes later, she presses the “outside” button again.    

Capone would love that button.  He’s an indoor cat, but he seems to enjoy it when Dave or I carry him around the front yard or sit with him on the front stoop.    He’d also favor an “open” button—like many cats, he despises a closed door.    

Leaving the bedroom door open (Capone has us well-trained), Dave went downstairs.  I clicked onto another cat video.  Capone jumped off my sweater and nosed the lid of the ottoman where I store his mice, birds, feathers, balls, etc.     I opened it, and he started digging at the contents. 

“Billi can tell her mom what toy she wants,” I said.  “A mouse, or a bunny, or a worm.”  

Capone, now fully inside the ottoman, paid me no mind.  He clawed with abandon.   Bells jingled; paper crumpled; a felt mouse landed near my foot.  A ball with a jingle bell hit the floor and headed towards the space beneath the radiator.     

It would be hard to figure out where in our house to put a set of HexTiles.   Capone is king of all three levels and issues commands throughout his domain.   Over time, we’ve constructed a sort of language.  We humans pitch our voices up, and Capone uses various mrrrwls and mrwaaaps with us.  We take them to mean things like hello; time to get up, dammit; time to snuggle; or someone has left the house.  There are areas of uncertainty (mystery meows), and a fair amount of our interactions are  nonverbal.   He claws at sheets of paper when he wants to play catch, paws at the window shade when he wants to look outside.  When he wants his food bowl filled, he heads for the top of the basement stairs and gives a piteous.  This dates back to when Capone’s food bowl lived on a card table in the basement so that our golden retriever couldn’t get to it.  Long after the dog passed and we moved the food bowl to a spot on the sunroom floor, Capone uses the same sign.        

 I wonder whether the FluentPet system could constrict the range of human-feline communication in the house.  Because we have so many obstacles to clarity, maybe we pay closer attention to Capone.   If he could just press the “mad” and “food” buttons at 4:30 every morning, when he starts getting hungry for breakfast, that would be fairly straightforward.  Lacking buttons, he conveys this desire by pulling the sheet off of Dave’s head and licking Dave’s biceps.  Creative and effective!    

 I’m probably mistaken.  Billi talks to her mom with cat vocalizations as well as the buttons.  And the buttons do seem to allow for fascinating talks.  In one video Billi calls Mom over.  Mom gives Billi some pets, and then Billi presses the “love you” button.  I’m envious.  Maybe envious enough to order a set and learn what Capone really thinks.  


“On tenterhooks,” the expression, refers to a feeling of uneasiness or suspense. Anxiety being my default state, you’d think I’d be somewhat inured to the feelings generated by the 2020 election. I’m not. This morning my head’s throbbing as if a bunch of tenterhooks were loose inside it. Tenterhooks are devices that attach cloth to a frame (the tenter) that keeps the fabric stretched, so that can dry evenly rather than warp. They aren’t little hammers…Dammit, I know I’d be able to make a better metaphor if I’d gotten better sleep last night.

Exactly a week ago it was snowing and the sun was rising after seven. Now temperatures are in the 60s and 70s for a couple of days, and dawn’s a bit after six. It’s so warm that I opened the bedroom window for the night to keep the room cool. Naturally, within seconds Capone the cat jumped onto the sill. There’s a sad dearth of windowsills for him to perch in once the weather turns cold. The window has to be open so that he can fit, as he’s too, um, “big-boned” to fit on the sill with the window closed.

Capone started out the night with me for a while and then left for his grand wee hours tour, where typically he roams among his humans. He settles with one human for an hour or two, then moves to another. #

I usually enjoy waking up to find Capone’s taking up space near my toes, or curled in the armchair, or looking out the window at whatever cats see in the darkness. But Capone had something else in store for e last night.

The return to standard time last weekend continues to annoy him. Capone chooses not to accept the hour delay in his breakfast routine. He expects to be fed promptly at 5:03 a.m. So we’re getting yowls at around four, most mornings. Dave’s the one who usually feeds him, so Capone will paw the blanket away from Dave’s head, meow, lick his arm. With me, Capone uses meows only and usually gives up after a couple of attempts. I bury my head under the pillow or turn up the volume on CNN, flooding the room with noise. On nights when he won’t stop, I shoo him out the door and shut it; fortunately, Capone has not yet managed to evolve an opposable thumb. Then I try to get back to sleep.

The experts promise I’d get better sleep in a dark, cool, quiet room. I do like a cool room, but these days I seem to need words being spoken by people to drown out the sleep-sabotaging words in my head. As for darkness…I can’t quite stand it. Besides, screen-glow means I can keep an eye out for any spiders that might be spinning in my direction, as well as any cats who might be wandering around the room.

Last night, after a couple of hours sleeping, I woke up a little before three. Capone was in the window. Maybe mapping squirrel nests, maybe watching the leaves move, maybe getting messages from one of the horsemen of the apocalypse. It’s hard to tell. After a while he jumped from the windowsill to the floor with a bit of an oof, he is not a youngster anymore. He meowed peremptorily at me. “What’s up?” I asked, imagining that he wanted a cuddle. I patted the bed, the standard cat invitation. “Mrrwl,” he replied, twitching his tail and making no move in my direction. His eyes reflected the light from the TV. I patted the bed again. He moved slowly to the bedroom door, gave me a final stare, and left the room.

He repeated this behavior four more times over the course of the night: entering stealthily, jumping silently up onto the windowsill, and, when he was done with window time, jumping down and meowing loudly. He timed it so that every meow came at the very moment when I was just getting back to sleep.

Normally this would be cute, if frustrating. During election week, though, I’ve been sleep deprived for days. I’m more hopeful than I was on Tuesday night that the candidate with the majority of the popular vote will win, but ot confident that the current president will be thwarted in his frantic attempts to rig the results.

“Dammit, Cat!” I said, at the third oof-meow. Capone scratched his ear, meowed again, and sauntered out of the room. Those cat claws hooked me, nerves stretched tight, to wakefulness. I sighed and turned up the volume on CNN. Maybe something whispered to Capone in the darkness, keep her awake so she can see when the lead flips in Georgia. Probably not.

I did stay awake long enough for Pennsylvania to flip, also, and to finish this log. Sleep may be easier now.


The official start of fall is 11 days away. It can’t come soon enough for me, as it’s been unpleasantly steamy here the last several days. I’ve switched out sundresses for sweaters and bought my first pumpkin spice latte. I’ve even changed to a face mask with a falling leaf design, yet summer won’t take the hint.

Capone the cat, suffering like the rest of us, stretches out on the relatively cool wood floor of our bedroom. Some days this would mean that he’s planning to snag me with a claw as I move around the room. Today he’s conserving his attack energy. How much space he occupies, from whiskers to twitching tail tip! I sit down and scritch-scratch between his ears, enjoying the softness of his fur and his fabulous orange stripes. He leans his head into my hand and rumbles his quiet purr.

Fall is the best season, crammed with birthdays, holidays, school, concerts, and new beginnings. No school for my family this year, but the yellow school buses are out, reminding me of sending Sonny off with his notebooks and folders in his favorite colors, orange and yellow. All around us the trees exploding into reds and oranges, tabbies arching their leafy backs into the sky.

Capone, in repose, looks as if he could be the grandson of my parents’ tabby, Wimpy. Capone’s a large cat, friendly cat who likes people and even dogs. Wimpy was a giant who lived half indoors, half outdoors. He had a purr that could be heard several rooms away, and he was tolerant, but mostly indifferent, to the humans in the house. His sworn enemies were my mother’s poodle and the neighborhood cats. His ears were tattered from midnight battles.

Wimpy, battered ears notwithstanding, blended in beautifully with my mom’s decorating scheme, which (it being the 1970s) relied heavily on scratchy fabrics in harvest colors: browns, oranges, golds, and avacado greens. It was always fall in our house. Above the couch in our living room, we had a framed, life-sized tawny lion’s head that my mother had made from a kit by sewing yarn onto a burlap canvas. Wimpy spent a lot of time on this couch, napping regally beneath that family portrait.

My hand propels little puffs of fur off of Capone and into the air, where they float until they find the floor, the dresser, my chair, the bedspread. This pumpkin patch of cat hair does not coordinate with my color scheme, which is more ocean/summer than harvest. My reaction is the same as my mother’s: I get out the vacuum cleaner.

I don’t mind. I can’t count every cat hair in the patch, but the shedding has slowed some since August. Fall is nearly here.

Walking Worried Part Deux

A while ago I made a post about Covid-19-related hypochondria spreading through the house.  Dave and I both had it: that sneaking worry that a low-energy day, headache, cough or sniffle was the beginning of the end.  A reasonable but disruptive paranoia.

Even Capone the cat had a sneezy day.  This happened in April, a few weeks into the shutdown.  I worried because of all the news stories about Covid in felines…lions and tigers at the Bronx Zoo, pet cats in Belgium and Manhattan.   I offered Capone comfort food.  He doesn’t like my favorite, flatbginger ale and animal crackers, so I gave him a morsel of cheese and some cracker crumbs.  He ate it all and swatted at my hand as I took the empty plate, so clearly I’d cheered him up.

Now it’s July.  We’ve followed Massachusetts’ social distancing guidelines, wearing masks, being careful about shopping and gathering.  It recently struck me that none of us has been sick this whole time.  After that one day, Capone’s sneezes stopped.  Sonny’s been bored, but fine healthy.  Dave’s knee bothers him every once in a while, and sometimes my wrist goes a little wonky, but that’s the sum of our physical discomforts.

In my young adult years I got sick only rarely.  After Dave and I became parents, of course, everything changed.  When Sonny got sick, we did too.  Young kids pick up all the fab new bugs and share them freely.   Sonny’s immune system strengthened, but by then I was teaching music lessons and playing in pits, both of which kept me near the germs.   Lessons maintained close contact with the six-year-old crowd.  Pits jammed for three to five hours at a time in a enclosed space the size of a walk-in closet with several other people.

The last time I was actually sick (rather than stressed about a headache or a two-minute coughing episode) was mid February.    Just a head cold, the kind of small annoyance that hits every few weeks from October through May.   A simple cycle of intimations, suffering, and relief.   But oh, that morning when the energy comes back, when the nose is clear and the throat is scratch-free, when Capone leaps onto the bed at a quarter past five and meows imperiously for his breakfast and I smile at the sound of it, because I feel normal again…

It’s been four months.  Four months without a cold, flu, sinus infection, etc.   Nothing but the occasional pollen reaction.   Another tiny star to brighten the Covid-19 night, and I missed it.

I long to play in a pit, even next to a guitarist with a (non-covid) cough; to teach a piano lesson to an eight-year-old with a runny nose; to come down with a terrible cold that I know is just a cold.  To cough and sneeze so much that Capone orders Dave to bring me flat ginger ale and animal crackers.   To wake up a few days later feeling the joy of normal.

Lilies: an attempt at acclimation

On Mothers Day and my birthday come the bouquets.  I love flowers as presents.  Nothing fancy, supermarket bunches are just as welcome.  If Dave asks for suggestions ahead of time, I always say flowers, a card, maybe something sweet, will be fine.  But avoid lilies, please; I don’t like the smell.   In times when Dave doesn’t ask, I find a way to mention the flowers I like, such as roses, a few days beforehand.

Frequently a lily or two shows up in a bouquet.  Dave forgets that I don’t care for lilies, possibly in the same way that I can’t seem to remember the rules of cribbage, one of his favorite games.  There’s only so much room in a mind.   Not a big deal, a lily or two.

My Mothers Day 2020 bouquet was almost entirely lilies, white ones, plus a little baby’s breath and random greenery.   The arrangement was gorgeous.  I found a place for it in the most ventilated, and easiest to avoid, part of our house: the dining room.  (We eat there only for big holidays.)  As lilies are toxic to cats, I put the vase on a shelf that Capone doesn’t usually climb on.

Lilies are hardy.   Nearly a week in, the arrangement still looked lush and as fresh as it had on day one.  The blossoms opened wider every morning.   Dave brought the mail in on Thursday and said, “Boy, you can really smell those lilies.”

“You got that right,” I said, breathing through my mouth.

How can anything be as beautiful as a lily?  The deep green of the leaves and stems, the delicate filaments dancers frozen mid-movement, the petals corridors leading into a fabulous temple, the gorgeous color shadings.  Every day they took the room over just a bit more, relaxing into the vase.  And every day I stopped in to the dining room just to look at them.  Breathing through my mouth.

How can something so beautiful smell like fermented feet?   Some people can train themselves to like things that they find yucky by repeated exposure.  That didn’t work for me with yogurt, lima beans, or Stevie Nicks, but none of those things is so beautiful as a lily, so I made a serious effort.  I stalked and sniffed, first from a distance, then moving as close as possible before lightheadedness took over.  I made it to a distance of 18 inches, one day.  

Meanwhile I researched.  Turns out I’m not the only one who’s sensitive to lily scent, and there’s plenty of advice on what kind of lilies to buy (some varieties have very little scent) and even on a kind of surgery you can do on lily stems to fix the problem, which is far  beyond my capabilities.  The only way out for me seems to be to acclimatize somehow to the odor.

Maybe I will desensitize myself someday, but in regards to this bouquet Capone took matters into his own paws.  He waited until we were watching and then jumped up to the shelf where he never goes and started nosing around the blooms.   I grabbed 13 pounds of cat while Dave stuck the flowers into the waste bin.

Bad kitty, I told Capone, scratching him behind the ears, his favorite spot.  He purred knowingly.

Pandemic diaries: The Walking Worried

It’s Friday morning, and I have that thing that’s going around.  Maybe you have it, too?  In our house it’s endemic, if not quite pandemic:  I’m terrified that my morning headache is the first symptom of COVID19.   I’ve contracted hypochondria.

I take last night’s wineglass downstairs and start the coffee.  Dave comes into the kitchen to fill Capone’s food bowl  before the meows get too menacing.   I notice that he’s maintaining a Capone-sized distance from me–that’s about three feet from whiskers to tail–which is all the social distancing our kitchen affords.   Trying to be casual, Dave touches the back of his wrist to his forehead.  Guess we both have the hypos today.

A cough after a workout.  A morning headache.  A room that seems chillier than usual.  A sore throat.   A bit of fatigue on carrying laundry upstairs.  More than two morning sneezes.  What, me worry?  Yup.

The news and our social feeds overflow with cautionary tales that start with mild symptoms and progress to ICU.  Anything less than tip-top creates a generalized uneasiness.  Actual physical discomfort has me wandering the house like Frodo before his big journey, muttering “Shall I ever look into that cabinet again, and who the heck stuck the juice glasses in there?”

Sonny is practicing bassoon, as he does most mornings.  He stops in the middle of an etude to cough.  Just a little cough.  Maybe he’s just clearing his throat.  I tiptoe to his door, glad that it’s closed so our germs can’t pass through.  “Are you feeling okay?”

“I’m fine, Mom.”

I deserve the italics; I ask Sonny this question almost every day.

Distraction is one way to deal with the worry, and it kind of works, but the best cure for the hypos is sleep.  Sadly, going straight back to bed doesn’t cut it, even on days when I have nothing on the schedule.   I start calculating how many hours it will be before a nap becomes possible.

Logistics are important.  In the wrong place or time, I’ll be too uncomfortable to get to sleep, or I’ll almost nod off but can’t get past the moment when the worries erupt.   There’s a recliner in the living room that would work, if nobody’s around eating lunch or watching TV or taking a class.

The coast being clear, I settle onto the napping chair.  Capone, the champion napper of the house, always knows when someone’s on the recliner and will casually walk through the living room to check out which lap is available.  Dave’s or Sonny’s?  Capone’s up in that chair lightning fast.  On seeing me, Capone flicks an ear and strolls away.

I don’t give up.  I arrange the cat’s favorite throw (red, plush) over my legs, set my book and water glass in easy reach, recline, and wait.  About ten minutes pass.   Fourteen pounds of feline whumps onto the the armrest.  One leg at a time, Capone settles himself into a comfortable position and demonstrates to me once again that all you need to do is close your eyes and purr.  I pass through the twilight floating state and into a real sleep.  When I wake, Capone is gone, but so are my headache and the panic.

Close your eyes and purr, my friends.

Interrupting Cat

One way I’ve been getting out of the Nest more this year has been teaching remote piano lessons, where I travel to a student’s house rather than having the student come to me.    Thursday I went to S.’s house.  Usually I see S. on Tuesdays, but a foot of snow fell this past Tuesday and we were all busy shoveling.  S. and Mimi met me at the stairs to her living room, which as usual was cheerfully cluttered with kid toys, cat toys, and sippy cups.  S. is five years old.  I’d guess Mimi, a small brown tabby, is about a year old.  Three cats live here, but Mimi is S.’s cat.   S. is always dressed to impress, and today she wore a headband with a big green sparkly bow in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.  (Last week: Princess Elsa from Frozen.)

S. introduced me to Mimi, as she does every week.  I left my pencil at her house one time and my stickers another, so S. thinks I need help remembering things.  (She could be right.)  Then she put Mimi on the piano bench next to her.  The cat jumped off the bench immediately.  Mimi is not into piano.  Beethoven bores her.  She prowled about the room for a bit before settling into her favorite lesson spot, which is sitting in a bay window, staring at the outside world, thinking whatever cats think.

A half hour later I had collected my things–S. with a keen eye out for any stray pencils or  stickers–S. urged me to hold Mimi.  I scooped the animal up to my chest, and she curled quickly and neatly into my elbow.  Tiny thing, but she purred like a tiger, a deep thrum that vibrated through to my back ribs.

Home a few hours later, Sonny (back from college for spring break week) and I were relaxing, watching TV in the family room.  It’s cluttered a bit at the moment, but with grownup stuff.  Books, notebooks, a wineglass.  No toys.  Sonny sprawled on the couch with his laptop, paying half attention to two screens.  I was curled up nearby in a swivel chair, wrapped in a throw.   Capone came flirting up, his tail high and quivering, mowrling at me.  He stepped tentatively onto my lap, trying to find a way to fit himself into the confusion of knees and ankles underneath.   Ordinarily I would have been ecstatic.  Capone never sits on my lap in the swivel chair.  If Sonny or Dave is on the chair, Capone is purring contentedly on their laps, but not if it’s me on the chair.   Capone likes to play with me, to race me up the stairs (he spots me 10 of the 12 steps and still beats me to the top), to pounce at my ankles, to bat paper balls with me, but unless it’s nap time and I’m in the recliner–different chair, different room–he keeps a discreet distance.  But I had things to do and couldn’t stay.  Interrupting cat, like the interrupting cow in the knock-knock joke.  (Heard it?  Knock-knock.  Who’s there? Interrupting cow.  Interrup–MOO.)  “Don’t get comfortable,” I told him.  He lay twisted like a Mobius strip, purring.  A soft sound that was more the suggestion of a purr, but that’s his way.

I put him on the coffee table and rushed through my chores.  Five minutes, tops.  Locked the doors, brushed my teeth, turned off the hall light, grabbed my book.  When I got back downstairs, Capone was still crouched on the table.  He’d waited for me!  So I arranged the throw on my legs and chirruped invitingly.  He flicked an ear in my direction, but otherwise moved not.

“Come on, you silly cat,” I said.  I picked him up, grunted–he’s 14 pounds, it takes some effort–and put him on my lap.  Capone would have none of it.  I stroked his fur.  Sometimes that works and he settles down, willing to be comfortable and adored.  He didn’t struggle or scratch.  Like Mimi, he waited until he’d been set and the hands were off, and then he jumped away.  Back onto the table, in fact.  The coffee table made of chilly, hard, slate and wood.  Capone settled with his rear towards me, about a foot away.  Maybe staring at Sonny (Sonny is Capone’s favorite), who was laughing at the outcome of my efforts.  Maybe getting ready for a nap.

Sonny laughed some more.  He patted the couch next to him.  Capone didn’t even bother to cock an ear, he just stayed on the table.  “Our cat is a jerk!” Sonny said.

“You got that right,” I said.

All screens forgotten for a bit, one of those little moments that stick in your head.  Timing is everything, I guess, in comedy.  And affection.


Like Water for Tabby Cats

Water fascinates Capone.  He sneaks into the bathroom when we’re taking a shower, listens to the pipes when the washing machine’s running, and sits on the counter by the sink to eye the suds and splashes as I do the dishes.  And every morning he watches, tail twitching, as I fill a bowl with fresh, cool water and set it down for him.  Then comes the hokey-pokey: he brings his nose close to the surface, then pulls back.  Forward, back, forward, back.  Eventually he dips his nose briefly into the water, brings it back up, and snorts and shakes his head.  He flicks his long tongue up to his nose and discovers–to his evident surprise–water!  The  tongue then sneaks its way waterward, followed finally by his body settling into a crouch, his head thrusting forward, and the commencement of actual drinking.  (Followed by me cleaning up:  Capone is a messy, ecstatic drinker whose athletic tongue splashes at least as much water over the bowl’s edge and onto the floor as goes into his throat.)

The water bowl is white, with blue flowers painted on the bottom and edges.   The water ripples as I set it down, making it look as though the flowers are swaying gently in the current.  Was it the optical distortion that was startling Capone?  I substituted a low silver-bottomed bowl from the pet shop.  Capone did the water dance per usual.   I like the white water bowl better, so I returned to using that.

Whatever the reason for the dance, I envy Capone’s daily delight in his water encounters.  Beginner’s mind, I think, is what the Buddhists call it: coming fresh to both novel and familiar things.

Most of my beginners mind seems to be of the negative kind.  Cleaning the stove or packing for a move or writing a story: I’m always startled anew with how hard they are.   Most of the time, though, I’m in more of a middle-school mind space: waiting for class to be over ’cause I’ve got stuff to do.  Such as right now: I’m getting ready for Sonny’s move back to the dorm, which happens in a couple of days.

This morning I took Sonny to Target to buy some winter boots.  Then we stopped for gas on our way from Target to the bookstore.  It’s our last bookstore trip before the next semester; bookstores are a favorite place.  I was in a bit of a sentimental mist, I have to admit.  The gas station was a couple of islands next to a Cumberland Farms convenience store.   A stern sign by the nozzle warned not to touch it until the computer screen said to start filling.  The screen took what seemed like a long time, then flashed “START FILLING” in all caps.  I hurriedly lifted the nozzle off its hook.  The hose had a twist in it.   I tried to straighten it by turning around in the space between the pump and my car–kind of like you’d untangle yourself from a dog leash winding around your legs.  But turning my back on the hose turned out to be a mistake.  It writhed in my hands like a living thing and leapt upward, the steel nozzle catching me a hefty clip on the forehead, about two inches above my left eye.   Felt like a tap from the universe: pay attention!

We got home around lunchtime.  Capone was manifestly uninterested in the bruise on my forehead, although he did inspect the Barnes and Noble bag.   I guess I’ll join him as usual for the water dance tomorrow morning, maybe try to learn a few of the steps.