Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Notes: January 15-21

In the very early days of our marriage, I declared to Jason that we should have a little bunny for our apartment.  He reluctantly agreed, and we brought home a speckle-headed Holland Lop that we named Specklehead.  Then, a few days later, I said that it is not good for rabbit to be alone, and could we not just buy him a little friend?  So, back to the pet store we went and brought home with us a big, black Holland Lop that we named Al.  Al had distinctly amorous intentions toward little Specklehead, but, as we were hip, swinging city dwellers in Southern California, we just attibuted his lustful advances to the fey zeitgeist of the time and laughed it off.  It will not surprise Bob Tarte -- or anyone else who reads this -- that, a few months later, Specklehead had a litter of kits.  And, it will surely not surprise anyone that, within six months, we had seventeen rabbits living on our apartment porch.  Jason was bitter.

How bitter, I did not realize until I got Sadie a little, brown Holland Lop for Christmas in 2009.  "Oh, don't get a rabbit," Jason moaned when he saw me looking at breeders on-line.  For some reason, I thought he was comically grousing and did not take it seriously.  But, when Kona the Bun chewed all the buttons off of his TV remote control by January 2010, I learned how seriously he had meant his original protest.  And that led to a serious row.

Last summer, I approached this fiery volcano of anti-bunny sentiment with a bold plan.  If, I said, we could get Kona a little friend -- and neuter him (Kona was already spayed) -- I would happily move the rabbits outside, and they would never again cross his threshold or nibble on his entertainment enablers.  To my surprise and gratification, he agreed.  Mr. B was located, purchased, and shorn of his manhood; placed in a roomy hutch-with-a-run combo in the backyard within the confines of an arranged, but celibate, marriage, he and Kona got along swimmingly from the first and have lived in happy, mutual-face-licking harmony ever since.

This is a long way of introducing a book filled to the brim with charm, humor, and poignancy. Bob Tarte's foray in the perils of pet ownership really began with the acquisition at his wife's behest of a rascally rabbit named Binky.  Fast forward through the addition of parakeets, parrots, and dove and even more rabbits, and Mr. Tarte arrives at his book's eponymous position: Enslaved by Ducks.

Truly, if you like animals or have ever had a pet outside the cat-and-dog realm, I cannot think how you would not be enamored of this book.  If you have a reluctant -- nay, embittered and oppressed -- spouse whom you have lured into your animal-keeping web, then you must read this book.  It is told almost exclusively from Mr. Tarte's point of view, as he drags his feet and mutters under his breath down the road to lagomorph lodging and fowl husbandry.

But, my favorite person in the book is Bob's wife, Linda. She is the one who oh-so-gently pushes and advocates for the expansion of their animal overlords.  She is the one who constantly uses the phrase that I thought was mine exclusively: a little friend.  Every animal needs a little friend; and, spineless but resentful Bob eventually bows to her will. 

Linda never really comes out of her shadowy supporting role in Enslaved by Ducks.  When I first started reading the book, I thought that her desire for animals was a substitution for a longing for children.  Dammit, Bob, I thought; get on the ball and give this poor lady some babies before she overruns your house with rabbit pellets.  Then, in further reading, it dawned upon me that this couple was a lot older than I had originally thought.  Linda seems to have already had children by a previous marriage.  So, I let Bob off the hook there.  What the reader does find out of Linda just makes her seem like the sweetest lady ever -- with a generous, loving nature that seems simply to need a much larger outlet than even her doting, grousing husband.  I think that, despite the abundant birds and buns, Mr. Tarte lucked out.

Anyway, lots of laugh-out-loud moments and some poignant parts make for an altogether satisfying and undemanding read. Quack!

No comments: