Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dead Rotten Kitten

So for several weeks now, there has been this dead rotten kitten in one of the gardens we pass on the way to work and school. I was going to take a picture of the dead rotten kitten for you, but to be honest, I'm really squeamish about dead things, and this dead thing is particularly gross, so I couldn't stand to engage with the dead rotten kitten enough to take a picture of it.

Just try and look away.
Until today, the dead rotten kitten has been kind of wet and slimy-looking, much like a newborn kitten, but I'd guess this kitten was six or eight weeks old. Every day when I pass by it, I try to make myself look away. But every day, I look for the dead rotten kitten. It just keeps being there.

The garden is more like a strip of garden at street level, with a fence around it. The rest of the garden is about half a floor down, overlooked by the ground-level flat. This fact becomes significant later in the post, which is why I mention it here. Let's call it foreshadowing, only it's not for something bad.

LE stays with his dad for half of the week. Which means that half of the week I walk with him to school, and the other half of the week, I walk to work on my own. Most of the time, the conversation I have in my head about the dead rotten kitten stays in my head. Don't look for the kitten, don't look for the kitten, don't look for the kitten, oops, there's the kitten and it's gross and wet and now it has some holes in it. Or whatever development-- holes, bones, its teeth-- is occurring that day, because as much as I'm grossed about by dead things, I've never gotten to observe the stages of putrefaction this closely. It's been happening nice and slow because the weather, until recently, has been cool.

One thing I'm really glad about the dead rotten kitten is that it's never been stinky.

About a week ago when I was walking to school with LE, the in-my-head conversation about the dead rotten kitten got out. It's not unusual that this happened. When LE is around I am still in the habit of saying all the stuff I'm thinking, just as when he was a baby. Only when he was a baby it didn't matter so much what I said because it was only a conversation I used to cling to my sanity.

No, wait. I mean the conversation was to teach him how to talk and stuff. Anyway.

Home is where you can say whatever you want. If it isn't, maybe you need to find a new home.

Now, LE's a person who cares an awful lot about what I say some of the time. Most times, he doesn't give a shit what I have to say because he has something to say, often at the same time I do, and I listen because he's talking about stuff and that's cool and also because I want him to think he's the most important person on earth and also because the things he has to say are increasingly interesting for real. I pretend to be interested way less than I used to.

Naturally, when I mentioned the dead rotten kitten his radar went up. That's my boy.

I only mentioned it to LE because I'd mistaken the dead rotten kitten's garden for the garden next door. They look a lot alike from the street. This whole time I've been wondering why no one has cleaned the dead rotten kitten out of the garden, because the garden is otherwise well looked-after and the looking-after has begun now that the weather has warmed up. So I mentioned how the dead rotten kitten was finally gone because I thought the dead rotten kitten was finally gone. In fact it was still there in the garden next door.

It's not always like this, kid.
Mostly LE is too busy skipping and walking backwards and spinning around and tying his backpack over his face to be very interested in the dead rotten kitten. But he often remembers about it.

Some days he feels sorry about the kitten because it died. One wants to make a kid's world be the sort of place where kittens never die, but fuck it. There are way worse things than dead rotten kittens.

"Mama," he said one day, "Why don't they clean that gross kitten out of the garden?"

Some other days, we speculated about how the kitten ended up there, and how it got dead in the first place.

"Mama," he said lot of other days, "That kitten is iğrenç. Poor kitten."

Modals maybe can be subversive?
This week at work, I'm teaching modal verbs. Modal verbs suck for students because the form of them is difficult and the shades of meaning are difficult because the meaning keeps changing whether modals are affirmative or negative or past or present and you can't skip them because they're fairly crucial to understanding the whole of English.

Modal verbs suck for teachers because they come as one section of any textbook and you teach them all at once as though they were a silly thing like tag questions or inversions or subjunctive, so students forget them as soon as you're done with the unit because English is a series of units. Modal verbs also suck for teachers because they're grammar and teaching grammar sucks. I love teaching grammar, actually, but I kind of think the whole thing needs to be mostly abandoned. Whatever.

Anyway, grammar teaching. I've never really been successful at teaching people to use modal verbs productively. Has anyone? Probably not. Please refer to my earlier sentence where I say grammar teaching sucks. It's fun, but it's a big fat waste of time.

We've been doing modals of probability and possibility. When we got to the past tense ones ("No! you can't use 'mustn't' as a contraction to mean past probability! Come on, you guys, care!"), it was for my 8.30 lesson that I forgot to plan and I couldn't manage to get to work before 8.15. When I got there, I needed coffee.

But the night before, LE had blown my mind. "Mama!" he exclaimed, because he tends to exclaim most things. "That kitten couldn't have been hit by a car, because how did it get in the garden?"
Creepy super-genius

Was that a super smart thing to say? Because I'm pretty sure it was super smart.

He was right. There's a fence around the garden and it's about 6 feet between the street and the garden. Well done, Mr. Forensics-Face. I threw out a couple of scenarios in which the dead rotten kitten, having been hit by a car, might have ended up in the garden. They weren't very plausible, but they were possible. I used lots of past tense modals.

So at 8.15 the following morning, with my coffee and waiting for my computer to decide to come to life, I decided the dead rotten kitten story was a good way to teach past tense modals of possibility. It's hard to say if it was a good idea or not because most students went to sleep as soon as they'd understood the phrase "dead rotten kitten."

That evening, LE wondered what I did at work, and I tried to explain to him again what grammar is. I created a complicated sentence with modal verbs and he looked at me for a long time and said slowly, "I don't know what you're talking about." I complimented him on the embedded noun phrase.

"Mama!" he exclaimed. "That yucky kitten couldn't have been killed by a dog, because how could it have gotten in the garden? The dog, like, what. Killed it and then carried to the garden? No. What the hell?" Here is why I mentioned the fenced strip of garden earlier in the post. There's no way a dog could have been walking in the garden because of the fence on one side and the narrowness and the six-foot drop on the other side. The fence and gate would prevent most dogs from entering the garden.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was a super smart thing for a six year old to think of, though obviously I'm biased. I suggested maybe the kitten had just decided to curl up and die there for whatever reason, but even that was lame because cats don't usually choose such places to curl up and die. The carcass isn't even all that curled-up anyway.

One or two students seem to be on the verge of getting past tense modal verbs of possibility. Others are intent on explaining why Fatih Terim's English is wrong, though "What can I do sometimes?" has made it into today's lexicon of one-liners I can manage at apt moments. The rest are ever so keen on some race-car game in their phones.

They're falling okay so far.

The weather has warmed up the last few days (the first cemre has fallen, of course! Maybe it's late, but maybe it's okay), and I noticed tonight that the dead rotten kitten was looking a little drier. This morning, it was still slick with wet. So the dryness is a much more interesting change than when its shoulder blade became exposed.

The mystery of how it died and how it got where it is remains.

And I'm forever thankful that home is where you can say anything.


Bill said...

How will he get to school the other half of the week? I forgot how this was sorted out.

Westy said...

Really enjoyed this article I also encountered a dead cat this week and the image would not go away. As for teaching, I have a tongue in cheek article on my blog regarding private tutoring in Turkey.

Stranger said...

When he starts real school, he'll just go to his dad on weekends. They're still talking about moving closer to here anyway.

And Westy, thanks!


Claudia Turgut said...

He is obviously super-smart.And so are you.

Stranger said...

Thanks, Claudia! Your comment needs a like button.


agent L said...

Fell out of a window? Victim of a cat-mugging gone wrong? Executed for some cat crime and body left out as example for future possible malefactors? Good grief. This is going to keep me up for days, I can feel it.

Dilara said...

I loved the ''Fatih Terim's english '' part :) and also thanks for not sharing the dead rotten kitten's picture...

Stranger said...

The kitten couldn't have fallen out of a window-- it's way too far away.

Unless maybe it was pushed....