Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Neighbor Creeps in to Sharp Little Cat Feet

Now that dogs have had their day, I must devote a few moments to cats. Because that's how much time my cats devote to me.

I was never much of a cat person. My mom couldn't stand them, so there was slim chance of having one as a pet. Mom said cats were sneaky. She hated the way the neighbors' cats, John, Paulie, George, and Ringo, wound around her ankles when she walked all the way across the back yard to scrape her leftovers into the ditch. Town in Backroads is just a closer figuration of hillbillies.

During early adulthood, I lived in an apartment complex where a neighbor in the next building had a black devil cat. That's what the rest of us called him. She called him Fred. Crazy Cat Lady was crazy about her cat. He could do no wrong. When she invited our little crew over to socialize, Fred was the one who went crazy. You know how a cat can be sprawled on the floor one minute, or laying on the fish tank cover dipping a paw lazily into the water, then suddenly decide he needs to be somewhere else? Yeah. That's what Fred would do. Dash around that apartment like gravity had no hold on him. I swear he ran along the walls like a speed cyclist, round and round, and then upstairs to his bedroom with a little POOF of air announcing his exit. You'd think he'd been dosed with some of the painkiller Tom gave to Aunt Polly's cat, Peter.

Crazy Cat Lady booked a cruise to Greece that summer. The only problem was Fred. She asked me to look in on him once a day. To make sure he had food and water, dump his litter box, and put her newspaper and mail on the kitchen table. I agreed. It's not like teachers have anything to do in the summer. Except take a cruise to Greece.

The first couple days of cat-sitting were uneventful. I grabbed the mail, picked up the paper, and let myself in with CCL's key. Fred was nowhere to be seen. I could tell he was living by the absence of food, and the presence of poop. I did my duties. Sprinkled some food for the fish. Made sure the cover was folded back down on the fish tank.

Around the third day, Fred grew bold. He sat halfway down the townhouse steps, watching. It was eerie. I tried to make small talk with him. But you know how dismissive cats can be. I might as well have been talking to myself.

The next evening, all not-heaven broke loose. The minute I stepped inside the front door, Fred tore down those steps and clawed my bare leg, then turned on a dime like a well-trained, expensive barrel-racing steed, and ascended the carpeted stairs with nary a snagging of claws. Wasn't THAT a fine how-do-you-do! And me providing the food which provided him the energy to attack, making it harder for me to walk into the kitchen and provide his food. We were almost an O. Henry story.

The next night I was armed. One-armed. I tucked the mail under my left armpit, and clutched the newspaper in my right hand. I stepped inside. Down those stairs Fred shot like one of those tubular fireworks that scream across the ground and explode under your lawn chair. He scraped more skin from my shin. Darted away before the blood began to flow, as I took a sweeping swing with the daily news. There was no joy in Apartmentville. Mighty Val had struck out.

That was our pattern for the rest of the week. I took to slipping on a pair of sweatpants over my shorts before the feeding mission. And wore shoes instead of THONGS (there, I said it, the proper name for rubber footwear that has nothing to do with tramp stamps and strippers and pr0n stars). I never did connect with that black devil cat. He always got in a swipe.

When CCL returned, and asked, in the middle of a lovefest of purring and petting (her and Fred, of course, not her and me, just because I mentioned pr0n don't take liberties with my ambiguity), "How did you and Fred get along?"

"Just fine." I eyed Fred. Fred eyed me. We both pretended our little week together never happened. CCL kept inviting our gang over for socials, where she would sit on the floor and demonstrate how she could put her foot behind her head, and Hick, the future Mr. Val, would watch with his eyes bugged out, and our buddy the insurance adjuster would put Scotch tape on two of Fred's feet to see him walk like an Egyptian.

Ouzo might have had something to do with it.


  1. Not a cat lover, but I do have a great deal of respect for them.

    YOur Devil cat would reinforce my feelings.

  2. I would love to see a cat walk like an Egyptian. I can just picture it. And I know from experience that ouzo can mess you up pretty bad.

  3. If we could figure out how cats defy gravity, and shoot around like those tubular fireworks that scream across the ground and explode under your lawn chair, we wouldn't need THONGS for our feet and July Fourth could be cheaper and more exciting.

  4. p.s. tape on cat feet is hilarious even without ouzo.

  5. That last paragraph is a doozy.

    Yes, cats are wild. Like women, they don't forget their grudges, they are impossible to understand, and they aren't afraid to draw the first blood.

  6. joeh,
    Cats are an acquired taste. There's even a T-shirt that says, "I love cats. I just can't eat a whole one by myself."

    Two tiny pieces of tape, applied to paws catty-corner!

    Don't try to solve all of the world's problems at one sitting. Pace yourself like an outlawed child's firework "snake" that is still sold regularly here in Backroads, regardless of its illegality.

    p.s. PETA might frown on that sober foot-taping. Shh...don't tell Stephen. He will get a good story out of it.

    Thank goodness they are unlike women when they poop in a box and sometimes turn to look at you with a mouse butt and tail protruding from their lips.