FUZZBALL AND THE QUAKERS
They are called
Quakers because the spirit, which is in all beings, begins to move and
demands a voice. They quake where they sit, on their plain wooden benches,
until that which is in their hearts is spoken aloud to the Meeting. Very
often what they have to share is a question or a confirmation of the notion
of peace and they stand to speak in the hopes of a self and a world free of
My parents joined a Friends Meeting when I was three
years old. My younger brother and sister and are "birthright" Quakers. My
parents and I are "convinced" Quakers. I went to a Quaker kindergarten and
grew up playing with Quaker kids who helped me stage Christmas plays in the
Meetinghouse. I went to Young Friends gatherings and I was attending a
Quaker high school when a man with a gun kidnapped me from the school
grounds, drove me to a secluded area, and raped me repeatedly.
The only other guns I had ever seen were the revolver my
grandfather used to shoot black snakes from his back porch, and the ones on
TV and in the movies. The rapistís gun was a revolver too, old and black,
and he dropped it once. It wasnít all that impressive except that he told me
he would blow my brains out with it and I believed him.
He didnít blow my brains out. He raped me and dropped me
off by the side of the road. I ran to a phone and called the cops. Then I
called my Quaker school so that they would know where I was, what had
According to the Quaker ideology there is an Inner Light
in each of us, even serial rapists.
There is a pile of small stones on the far, left-hand
corner of the dining room table, placed there within armís reach of the
balcony doorway. The stones are bits of blue granite dug out of the gravel
in the courtyard by my dad, carefully chosen for their sharp edges and
points. My mom shakes her head at the pile but instructs the cleaning lady
to dust around it.
The dining room balcony overlooks the graveled courtyard
and is being strangled by a sinewy wisteria vine. In the shade of this vine
an elegantly mottled longhair cat named Fuzzball is living out her old age.
Fuzzball spent her life as mostly feral, prowling the
jungle of our backyard, fighting off the Dobermans from next door, and
leaving the occasional offering of dead mole at the back door. She never
allowed herself to be touched, except for rare moments in the vegetable
garden when she sidled up to lone tomato gatherers and purred for a scratch
behind the ears. The contact was brief, and then she slunk away again,
moving silently through the unmown grass like the ancestral cats of the
savannah. We were not a pet-family; none of us was moved much by any species
of dumb creature. But Fuzzball, who had been given to us as a kitten by a
well-meaning aunt, managed to earn our respect with her self-reliance. We
threw her a handful of catfood every now and then, but she demonstrated her
ability to fend for herself by littering the courtyard with the remains of
small birds and animals.
It became clear that Fuzzball was aging when she could no
longer make it onto the wisteria balcony in one graceful leap. She started
using the side of the house as a sort of landing, jumping from the ground
and hitting the wooden siding at an angle about six feet off the ground,
digging in with her claws, and propelling herself the last two feet up to
the balcony. The siding to the right of the back door began to look as
though the house had been marked by a bear, or a cult, or something
extraterrestrial and strange.
My dad, who tends not to notice cosmetic details,
discovered the claw marks when my mom pointed them out to him. He looked at
the scratches for awhile, and then he squinted up at Fuzzball who blinked
back at him from the sun-dappled, wisteria cool.
The next day there was a trellis leaning against the
balcony. Fuzzball could now climb up to the balcony with ease and dignity.
My dad claimed the trellis was to help control the wisteria vine, but his
true motive was further betrayed by the appearance on the balcony of a small
white bowl that was from then on kept full of catfood.
My dad and I are eating muffins at the dining room table.
It is a warm summer morning and the balcony doors are open. We are both
skimming sections of the newspaper.
"This is appalling," I say about a front-page article.
"Whatís that?" my dad asks distractedly.
I start reading aloud.
"Carloads of Jewish settlers, outraged at the deaths of a
mother and three of her children, killed by a Palestinian gunman, drove to a
nearby village and shot an Arab man deadÖ"
I am interrupted by a ruckus in the courtyard.
"Damn it!" My dad tosses his paper aside, scoops up the
pile of stones, and leaps for the balcony doorway.
A blue jay has built a nest in the grape arbor across
from the wisteria balcony. As Fuzzball attempts to trundle across the
courtyard the bird swoops down on her, pecking and squawking. She turns on
him, and he retreats like a coward. Her slowed reflexes no longer allow her
to snatch birds out of the air and she is forced to endure the blue jayís
territorial heckling until my dad appears on the balcony with his handful of
ammunition. His aim is anything but true, but the blue jay is startled into
a retreat and Fuzzball continues on her way in peace.
A few days after the rape I started having a reaction to
the antibiotic and abortive drugs I was given during the post-rape exam in
the hospital. My dad took me to see the family homeopath. Our homeopath was
Sufi, a member of another peace-loving sect, and he sprinkled a rare-flower
remedy under my tongue to calm me. As we left his office, the Sufi homeopath
stopped my dad.
"I have a remedy for you, too," he said, and his voice
shook a little. "Go out and kill the motherfucker."
My younger brother is eating breakfast while I eat lunch.
He is hunched and grumpy over his Cheerios. When I get up to put the
remainder of my tuna fish sandwich in Fuzzballís bowl he growls at me.
"What are you doing that for? The smell attracts strays."
"Sheís losing her appetite. Dad said we should try to
inspire her to eat, give her something good."
"Dad and that cat," my brother growls. "Is that his?" he
He is gesturing towards a huge, garishly colored water
gun leaning up against the wall.
The dining room table was disarmed a few weeks ago when
the blue jay gave up its siege, mostly out of annoyance, and moved its nest
elsewhere. The courtyard was quiet, until the new threat appeared. Stray
cats, drawn by the scent of tuna fish delicacies, have started slithering
onto the wisteria balcony, hissing at the dowager cat and swiping food out
from under her nose.
"To shoot the latest invaders," I explain.
"Hmph." My brother, who has been denied water guns his
whole life on Quaker principle, ogles the Super Soaker for a minute or two
and then sinks back into his Cheerios.
A few hours later my brother eats lunch while the rest of
us are eating dinner. This time he ogles the slingshot that has joined the
cutlery beside my dadís plate.
"They run from the water, but they always come back when
they think my back is turned," my dad is saying. "Iím afraid there needs to
be more sting involved in this defensive."
"But do you have to use the sugar cubes from my tea set
as ammo?" my mom asks.
"The stones arenít aerodynamic. They donít launch well."
Just then a stray rears its ugly little head. My dadís
chair flips over, the balcony door is flung open, cats are hissing, and
white sugar cubes are whizzing through the air, missing their marks by
yards. Fuzzball moves out of the way until the skirmish is over; then, as my
dad rights his chair and resettles, she quietly returns to her meal. My mom
frowns at my dad, chewing on a worried reproach, but she swallows it and
chooses for the moment to follow the catís example.
Sometime during the months following the rape, while the
rapist was still at large, a fellow Quaker came to our door. He was an old
friend, someone who lived nearby. He had heard about the rape at Meeting and
wanted to come and talk to us, to see how we were doing. He sat on the front
porch with my parents and me.
"My wife and I volunteer in prisons," he said. "We
counsel prisoners and ex-offenders and try to help them re-enter society. I
thought you might want to try this sometime. It might help you find
My dad is what is known as a "weighty" Quaker. He goes to
Meeting every Sunday, belongs to Quaker committees that administer
retirement communities and schools, and is highly respected in the Quaker
"George," my dad asked his friend, "have you ever been
mugged or robbed?"
"Have you or any of your family been the victims of any
"No, we have not," George said.
"Then I venture to say you have no idea what we want. I
am not at the moment looking for forgiveness."
I came home from my summer job at the YMCA this afternoon
and found a box of Yellow Jacket bullets on the dining room table. It took
me a moment to figure out what they were, and then I was startled and
repulsed. These Yellow Jackets were meant to kill. I didnít even look for
the gun because I couldnít fathom one being in our house. But now I see it,
a rifle behind the sideboard. It looks like a toy, something the neighbor
kids would play with. I pick it up and it is very light. Fuzzball is
watching me through the balconyís glass door. She opens her mouth at me. I
see her pink tongue and her little white fangs, but I canít hear the sound
of her mew. My mom walks in and sees the gun.
"Jesus Christ!" She jumps back. "What is that?"
"Itís a rifle. Must be Dadís." I start crying because I
canít help it.
"Okay, thatís it," she says and storms off to find my
Later, while my mom and I are at the hardware store
buying Have-a-Heart traps, my dad returns the rifle to our neighbor who uses
it to hunt deer that he and his family will eat.