One of the cats' dingle balls tried to escape today.

I was amid the musings of whether or not I was fed up with the bothersome quirks of living with someone else, leaving for work about 40 minutes late, and I opened the kitchen door to let myself out. The moggies, of course, were sitting in a row a good couple of lengths back from the threshold, watching me go with a lazy good-bye in the air. Part of our morning ritual. As I turned to go, a one of the dingle balls, a green and red plastic, slotted globe encasing a small metal bell, made a break from behind the counter and dashed merrily out the door, with a little *dingle-dingle* of triumph as it jumped the raised bit of the doorframe and made it out onto the side porch.

Dingle balls are tricky little buggers, really. They hide themselves away in the darkest corners awaiting a hungover human to plod by in the semidark morning-after, and then, without making a sound, jump out underfoot. Each tripped human scores them ten points, plus a point for every injury sustained (doubled for drawn blood), and half a point for every non-repeated curse or epithet hurled at the thing. They keep score, I guess, though none of my cats' dingle balls have been willing to let me in on who's winning. Probably afraid I'll start playing favorites or something. But they aren't usually noted for their stamina or long-range planning. Which is why the daring one this morning made it out to about the middle of the small porch and then stopped. Either he ran out of energy or he was suddenly overwhelmed by the grandeur and repercussions of his bold assay. I could almost imagine him thinking 'Whoah... I never thought I'd actually make it. Now what?'

As endearing and noble as the microcosmic statement of 'thing-kind' this litte display was, I was secretly delighted by the stupor of epiphany that the dingle ball had attained. I admit, I have vile moments, and it was the shadowy side of my nature which took over and used the intervening pause to scoop the little bugger up and toss him casually back inside. The cats perked their ears, and the youngest one of the three actually turned to watch it go by. This was an obvious mark of the lack of his catturity because every grown cat knows a dingle ball is only fun to play with when the humans are trying to sleep or concentrate.

It wasn't until I was on my way for the hour and a half commute to work that I began to ponder whether I had done the right thing or not. I wasn't so surprised by the self-mobilizing attitudes of the dingle ball itself... I'd tripped over him several times in the past. It was, however, the first time today that I knew his gender, simply because of the pause in which I had caught him. If he were a female dingle ball, he would not have been overwhelmed by the success of his actions and then subsequently caught, because I'm convinced that female dingle balls think their escapes all the way through, including hotel reservations and safe houses, and a false identity as a Christmas Tree ornament somewhere outside Sacramento.

Perhaps I was too harsh on the little fellow. Perhaps I should have left him to his own devices for the day, and seen whether or not he had had enough of the world and would be waiting for me on the porch when I came home. I suppose sparing him the dingle ball equivalent of a walk of shame was a kind gesture, though I doubt that he thinks so. And perhaps I'm enabling the delusions of an entire population of dingle balls to perpetuate for themselves. If I had left him outside, would the little dingle ball children grow up knowing that Outside wasn't any better than Inside, and that they really were in a place of relative comfort? Or will they still be incensed by the perceived fetters imposed upon them by an evil tyrant who rescued them from the petstore shelves and their prison of packaging, just to keep them locked away from the world in a great cavern of an apartment?

One thing is for certain... if this dingle ball has any common sense, he'll shut up about the bit of Outside he saw. He'll let them crown him with a wreath of laurel and accept in silence the accolades of heroism. Then he and his children can rest assured that the Dingle Ball Liberation Movement lives on, and they are descended from dingle balls with dreams and convictions enough to act on them. Yes, silence is the best course, since no one wants their illusions shattered by hearing about a mediocre reality.

All I know is, if they give this dingle ball a parade, they'd better damned well clean it up by the time I get home tonight.