First, I’d like to thank everyone who gave me their code phrases which makes their loves ones put on lead-lined underwear. It’s amazing what a bounteous language English can be when you want to scare the hell out of someone. Now, on to my life or, as Consort summed it up, “Oh, look. Kittens.”
Yes, kittens. I’ve been told by certain caring readers (Actually, Consort) that it’s a little cat-centric around here and for this I apologize to anyone who doesn’t check in at www.icanhascheezburger.com
four times a day. If you’re not a felinophile, come back next week, I’ll try to have run into something or done something socially questionable by then.
Three weeks ago, a quick email request went out from the animal-rescue group with which I work. Someone had dumped seven kittens at our doorstep and the cages were full; could people take cats? I quickly conferred with the unbelievably patient Consort and offered to take two.
I went in and saw the temporary pen with the kittens in it. Some litters are affectionate, some are playful; this litter could be declared fratricidal. If you’ve ever come across cage-fighting on one of the higher cable channels, you’ve seen this litter. Sports drinks are missing a valuable sponsorship opportunity. I pointed to a rolling ball of screaming fur and said, “We’ll take that one and another one.”
The rolling ball was uncoiled and it turned out to be two kittens. The other volunteer held them arms-length apart. They made mean eyes at each other. I said feebly, “Should we get two who hate each other less?” and the volunteer laughed. “These two like
each other. Look at the runt,” she said, pointing into the pen. One kitten, no longer than my thumb, was riding around on the head of the biggest kitten, trying to lance her eyeballs. Well, at least they were healthy and attractive.
Daughter named one Anne and the other Diana, because she’s reading Anne of Green Gables.
My suggestion of North Korea and South Korea was politely overridden. As it turned out, the kittens are cloyingly affectionate to anything which isn’t another kitten from their litter. They catch my eye, they purr. Daughter talks to them and they knead and bat their lashes. The dog gazes at them neutrally and they practically cavort. And then we all leave the room and they notice there’s something else in the cage and then the beatings commence. Later, I sneak into the laundry room and find them asleep across one another, sleeping deeply, a baby tooth still sunk into an abdomen, a nail a millimeter away from a jugular.
After a couple of weeks, I decided that maybe the reason they kept trying to kill one another was they were stuck in a smallish cage together and I declared the entire laundry room their domain. This certainly improved their mood, because it gave them many more places to hide behind and wait for the other one to walk by. Whatever the cat versions of “Ha-HA! We meet again!” and “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die
” are, I’ve heard them an average of sixteen times a day. But they seem pleased. And the laundry room’s floor is very nearly perfect for the countless ankle-wrenching little plastic toys they love to chase.
And then Lupac comes in and they are riveted. For the first week, I would hustle Lupac from the back door to the kitchen, covering her like a PR flack assuring reporters that Ms. Shapurr would love
to talk to them if only she weren’t running late for her appointment with stinky wet food. After a couple of weeks, I grew tired of writing out her press releases and started letting her go rogue. Lupac would come in from the outside, leap on to the dryer and eat her dinner. Anne and Diana would sit on the floor, watching her so closely and with such absorption they’d even stop trying to disembowel one another. It occurred to me that the kittens, without ever having seen her work, instinctively knew Lupac was the Real Deal. She carried on her fur a whiff of the outdoors, of things barely conceivable to the indoor cat, a life of excess and danger and dark pleasures. In sum, Lupac is Keith Richards to the kittens. She’s a cigarette dangling from her lips and a skull ring away from starring in the next “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.
For several days, they were respectful; she ignored them. But, as all Westerns have taught us, eventually someone will come gunning for the big guy. Two nights ago Lupac, having finished her wet food, jumped down on to the floor and started to leave. Anne, the braver or possibly more stupid of the kittens, snuck up behind Lupac and placed her paw on Lupac’s tail.
The next few seconds passed as a series of glances. First, Anne looked to Diana, Diana looked to Anne. “Are you actually touching her tail?” “I am totally touching her tail.” “I’m so impressed that I almost don’t want to kill you right now.”
Then, I looked at Anne and thought, “You aren’t that dumb. Krill
isn’t that dumb. Take your paw off her tail, run for someplace small and pray to whatever God takes your calls that she’s doesn’t eat you.” Anne looked at me in triumph. “I’m the boss of her!”
Finally, I looked at Lupac, who was already looking steadily at me. “Please,” I implored her with my eyes, “don’t eat her. She’s very young, it would be disturbing for me to watch and I think she’s nearly all gristle.” Lupac looked at me, meaningfully and silently and then, never looking at Anne, pulled her tail out from under the kitten’s paw, swung past her, walked to the kittens’ food bowl, ate their wet food, mumbled something unintelligible under her breath and walked towards the door. At the door, she took a second to whack one of the baby’s toys backwards, which hit Anne between the eyes. The kittens stayed frozen in awe for at least a minute.
I suspect this is just how Keith would have handled it.