Exuscitatio (ex-us-ci-ta’-ti-o): Stirring others by one’s own vehement feeling (sometimes by means of a rhetorical question, and often for the sake of exciting anger).

Have you ever fallen down a flight of stairs? How can this happen to a person like me? I can walk a straight line after two six-packs of beer. I can make it across the room with my pants down around my ankles. I mosh my butt like a bumper-car in a mosh pit—never fell down. Pull the rug out from under me and I’m still standing. Ice skates? Never fell—the double axle is my signature move. Crushing grapes is one of my favorite things to do—if I ever fell into the sweet juicy grape juice, it would be on purpose! So how the hell did I fall down the stairs at home?

Fist, I should’ve known we were in for trouble when the stair railing came off last summer. That almost got me. There I was with the pulled-off railing in my hand. If I hadn’t thrown it down the stairs, I would not have been able regain my balance. Unfortunately it hit my wife Margo and broke two of her ribs. We wrapped 10 feet of ace bandage around her chest and dosed her with OxyContin pain killers left over from my hand surgery, and she’s doing well. She’s still a little swollen and bent over, but she’s a real trooper. We had had our stairs carpeted. They look great—beige shag. It looks like a dead lawn. It makes me happy when I think of it that way, I won’t have to mow it. The guy who installed it was a little sketchy—on the receipt he spelled carpet c-a-r-p-i-t. I overlooked it because I was excited to have whole house, with the exception of the kitchen, carpeted. There was nothing like going carpet “all the way” from the upstairs bathroom to the living room, without touching a single piece of cold, hard, wood. But there was a problem: the carpet was slippery. I first noticed it when the railing fell off and I slid a couple of inches. But that’s not what happened to our son, Little Timmy. He tried to surf down the stairs, using the Sunday magazine section of the newspaper as a surfboard. He got one foot and his “surfboard” flew out from under him. He hit his head on the top stair, bounced down the rest of the stairs, and hit the floor hard, dislocating his hips, biting his tongue, knocking out his front teeth, and breaking both of his ankles. While he undergoes physical therapy, he will be in a wheelchair for at least a month. He is having his knocked-out teeth replaced, and he has had his tongue operated on to close hole caused by biting it. Poor Little Timmy, but then there is me.

After the railing fell off and Little Timmy took a spill, I vowed to be hyper-cautious descending the stairs. I would go slowly, watching every step. Along with those precautions, I thought my remarkable balance skills would hold me in good stead. But one morning I was late to work. My alarm had failed to go of, and I was in a hurry to get out the door. I threw caution to the wind and started running down the stairs. Just as I lost my footing and went head first like a torpedo flying down the stairs, I saw cat toys lining the stairs: the catnip stuffed calico fish, the red-eyed rubber rat, the wire cat taunter, some poker chips, even his carrier was resting on its side at the bottom of the stairs! And what had tripped me up: a nearly empty bag of “20,000 Salmon” concentrated kitty treats.

I had never gotten along with the cat—he would poop on my pillow from time to time, and shredded my clothing if I left my closet door open. We kept him for our daughter Laura’s sake. She told us she would run away from home if we got rid of him. Given that Laura’s 27, that sounded like a good deal. But, to my detriment, we kept him. Given that I had flown down the stairs, my head had slammed into the wall at the bottom of the stairs. I had amnesia for 2 months. I lost my sense of smell, and I yell random things at random people.

A careful investigation of what happened to me, revealed cat hair on my alarm clock. Since the clock’s failure triggered my fall, and there was cat paraphernalia arrayed on the stairs, and a cat treat bag sent me flying, it is a pretty safe bet that my cat tried to kill me. I feel like a hostage in my own home. We’ve put the cat in therapy, working on anger management and thinking about the consequences of his behavior.

Now, though, he sits on the ottoman in front of me, staring at me, and then, licking his butt for awhile, and then, going back to staring at me. Needless to say, I am intimidated. I don’t want to die.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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