Friday, August 5, 2011

Rude Awakening

I'm not sure if I've ever actually given you a full MTO&E of the personnel here at the Fire Direction Center, but one of the senior troops is Miss Lily, the little calico cat.She is a veteran of my first marriage, a rescue-cat from the animal shelter in Astoria, Oregon, where she nabbed my rain-slick sleeve one December day and has been with me ever since. Here's a tale of one of her adventures from some years ago. She is really a very personable cat.

She's also a very self-contained little soul, as with most cats; the only time she will admit to the weakness of need is in the night hours, when she likes to climb on sleeping people (me, typically, because, I think, I am bulkier than my bride and hence a better observation post). She then cuddles down on my chest and falls asleep, and since she's a tiny mite of a cat - less than 6 pounds - it's not really unpleasant. She never bites or claws if I move in my sleep, but she's very persistent, and will reclimb Mount Niitaka after I settle back down.

She is now very, very old in cat-years, probably more than sixteen depending on her age when I brought her home from Astoria. She sleeps most of the day, and she has stopped catching the small birds and mice that used to entertain her and annoy me. She has also become very thin, and her stomach is causing her trouble; she has difficulty keeping her meals down, and she is always ravenous. It doesn't help her that she shares her food bowl with Francesca Cypress Nittaneous III (a.k.a "Fat Nitty"), a feline stomach with legs, so she often has to bolt the vile canned concoction to prevent it disappearing inside the Nitteous One before she can get a taste of delicious by-products.

I am the only other troop in the entire unit who really likes her as something other than furniture. Mojo has little or no patience for either cat and will touch them only on sufferance, whilst the kids will alternately ignore or annoy her depending on their mood; Little Miss is slightly fearful only because Fat Nitty once ran her claws through the girl's blanket - just to get purchase rather than in fear or anger - and Missy has been wary of her ever since. I am the only human who will invite them onto my lap, or pet them for no other reason than tactile pleasure or simple companionship.Her one enduring fault is that by early morning - and I do mean early - her gyppy tummy is troubling her and she begins to caterwaul for her breakfast.

This morning she was doing her usual sand-dance over my prone body and singing her "Feed Me, Seymour" cat-song (which Mojo and I have learned to ignore until we're ready to get up) when she suddenly stopped.

Hunched over in the blanket-valley between us.

And shat the bed.

If you live with one of these little creatures you probably know that there is nothing more pungent than cat shit. Within seconds both humans AND the cat had lept from the bed. It fell to me to bundle up the beshat bedclothes and drag them downstairs to the washing machine; if left for even moments the penetrating pong of used catfood will permeate the very paint on the walls of a room. My bride - who if allowed will drowse into the early forenoon - mumped disconsolately into the kitchen, a surly dryad in an ultramarine Hello Kitty T-shirt, made a pot of coffee and then retired to an armchair in the front room looking like...a woman who had been awakened at 6:30 am by a cat fouling her bed.

Our daughter found the entire incident hilariously disgusting (or disgustingly hilarious) when she emerged a bit later. And the guilty party herself seemed more interested in her catfood than apologizing, although she spent a suspiciously long time cleaning herself up afterward before going back to sleep.

In most respects this would be just another tiny fragment of domestic excitement. The sheets are cleaned, the bed re-made, the cat asleep, the humans all gone about their business.

Except...our little cat has always been a very fastidious creature. This was VERY unlike her...and disturbing all the more for that. Like humans, animals entering the final stages of life tend to begin to deteriorate mentally as well as physically. I hope this was just a noxious accident, because if there are more to come it suggests that our small companion has begun the steeper slope of the descent we all eventually make towards the Big Sleep.And for all that she is nothing more than a rather smallish, aged calico cat her time on Earth is short enough as it is. I will miss her cat-look, the feeling of her gentle bones on my lap, and the shirr of her soft fur under my hands.

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