While C.A.T. O’Daly might have titled her newest collection of spry, short essays “Deep Thoughts From a Shallow Mind,” that mind of hers has a sardonic wit. She writes with a wry, often laugh-out-loud humor, not about grand themes, but rather those personal little topics, a perfect point of departure.
The essay “Silly Similes” addresses questions I have put to other people, about where old similes come from. After a few examples, O’Daly writes, “Blind as a bat would imply caves strewn with the creatures’ little bodies after knocking themselves senseless slamming into walls … You can’t prove that loons are crazy. Not the way you can prove that a fruitcake is nutty … It’s really not easy to take candy from a baby, you know. Sure, it can be done, but it’s hard to shut them up afterwards. If you have sensitive ears, it’s not worth it. Get your own candy.”
O’Daly’s first book, titled “There’s Something About the Vineyard,” was inspired by the Island. While most of the essays in “Deep Thoughts from a Shallow Mind” aren’t Vineyard-specific, the one called “Almost Free” is about classified ads for free or almost-free items in which she references The Times’ “Bargain Box.” While the articles she mentions are amusing, it’s her comments on them that get you.
“Recently there was an ad for a ‘5’ 5’ Red Tail Boa Constrictor, comes with cage [thank God!] Experience necessary.’ Ya think? … ‘Two Coffee Air pots, used once.’ If they didn’t like the first one, why did they buy the second one? … My personal favorite was ‘Fish tank & Scuba gear.’ Now there’s someone with an unusual hobby.”
For things you can buy she has an essay called “’Tis the Season,” where she writes about the kind of items she’s found amusing in some of the catalogs arriving in her mailbox: “I got a catalog the other day called Things You Never Knew Existed. It has such wondrous things. For $39.98 you can buy a remote-controlled skunk. ‘Just like the real thing — minus the spray, of course.’ I’m sorry, but if I were to spend that kind of money on a practical joke, I’d want the real deal …”
Although not strictly associated with the Vineyard, “Dogma” should bring a smile to all those Islanders with canines of their own as the author ruminates on the “good life” of a dog: “The benefits of being a house pet are appealing. Take the way they greet each other. No boring small talk or formal introduction requirements. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to size others up with an ogle and a sniff? … What a time saver that would be … Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know you are dressed properly for any occasion that might arise when you get out of bed in the morning? As for bathing — that’s optional. Your family will decide when it is necessary, and then do it for you. And speaking of hygiene, wouldn’t it be nice if every time you went to the bathroom someone was waiting to pat you on the head, say ‘Good girl!’ and give you a cookie? I could live with that.”
O’Daly says she wanted to be a standup comedian, but went to college instead. After 30 years as a nurse, she retired to the Island. She has been part of Island author Cynthia Riggs’ writing group for some 15 years, and they often suggest topics. She says her writing is “just my vision of how I view the world.”
We’re lucky she shared it with the rest of us.
“Deep Thoughts From a Shallow Mind” by C.A.T. O’Daly. Available at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven, $15.