I have a list of time sensitive stuff I need to be attending to and every time I look at it, I can’t focus. There they are, swimming in front of me, the soul-destroying articles of an over-scheduled, self-employed life: taxes, emissions, ink cartridges, Easter ham, April billing, water-color classes (Five items, all dependent on the first which involves the aforementioned ink cartridges), The OK Chorale (three items), church choir (two items). I realize it’s no different than the list in everyone else’s life but it’s annoying when I come to write a blog post –something that truly is a joy—and find I can’t come up with a decent idea. It’s like my mind is playing that game of statues and it’s frozen in the position of trying to focus. Someone needs to call “Time.”
Then I hear Pkgnao! It’s Freud, my cat, making the sound that is similar to the one made by Leopold Bloom’s cat in Ulysses which, in case you’re new here, I am reading at the rate of one episode a week. Leopold’s cat plus the sac-religious humor was what first convinced me I was going to enjoy Ulysses. Leopold’s cat says Mkgnao. Freud’s meow is similar except it begins with a plosive: Pkgnao. Phonetically, it could read, “pi-cow” with an emphasis and nasally elongation of the second syllable, and a hefty amount of irritation. Freud says “Pkgnao” when he is both hungry and annoyed that I haven’t done something about it. What with the way I serve my cats, there aren’t a lot of occasions when Freud is either hungry or justified in being annoyed—but that is my point of view, not his.
It’s been a week of cat drama. Artemis and Freud had their annual exam and shots, followed by Artemis playing the guilt card for 36 hours. She skulked around the house, giving me black looks that said, “I’ve always suspected you were trying to kill me and this just proves it,” before running away in terror.
Then Winston didn’t show up for breakfast, which is almost unheard of. I found him in the bedroom looking pitiful. I put my face near his to talk baby talk and ask him what was wrong, and reared back from the stench. Probing my way to the odor, I found a furless patch with two suppurating puncture wounds the size of quarter inch drill bits, and half a dozen smaller bites and scratches.
Yikes, I thought. The former neighborhood bully—that would be Winston– is getting his comeuppance. He’s too old to be getting into fights.
I poured hydrogen peroxide on the area and started in with hot compresses. Artemis had probably licked off all the fur. She’s the resident cat nurse when she isn’t on the lam from me. Plus she loves smelly pus. It’s cat Stilton to her.
Freud was quoting Joyce. Winston, having jettisoned his gold cup for prizefighting, was recuperating. Artemis was doing surveillance on me. I grabbed a key and went across the street to wait attendance on Suleiman the Magnificent.
Sulei is a black kitten, acquired by my neighbor Bill a year ago. I’ve taken care of her since she was just a scruff of black, whenever he was away. She’s a fierce little thing, prone to coming into my yard to hiss, spit and strut sideways in front of a bemused Winston and Freud who are each three times her size.
Sulei started out as Suleiman the Magnificent, but when Bill took him in to be neutered, it turned out she needed to be spayed. It explained a lot of things: why she was so tiny and why while the boys over at my house tolerate her, even find her amusing while Artemis is viciously opposed to her being on this side of the street.
Sulei’s people are gone for a few days but I am here, imprisoned by all the work I am not doing. The weather has been lovely and there’s much in the air for even a human nose to enjoy, so I have let Sulei out for long stretches. I go over for periodic sightings, and sometimes bring her across the street for classes in feline social etiquette. All the enrolled cats are failing the course, and they are quite rude about it, like a bunch of punks forced to go to driving school.
I tried to interest Gwen’s cat Lucy in my social etiquette classes but she bit me. I took that as a No. I go on Lucy duty when Gwen is out of town so Lucy can’t afford to alienate me completely. When I have an evening at The Gwen, Lucy and I always have a conversation about how little Gwen feeds her. She snoozes on her heating pad while Gwen and I watch a movie. Occasionally she looks like she might curl up on me, but then she remembers the time I tried to abduct her into that class –that cult, that brainwashing seminar—and thinks better of it. She curls up on Gwen and gives me a look that says “there are consequences to your actions.”
Lucy used to be a fearless feline, rather like the up and coming Sulei. Then there was The Incident. Gwen was at the family compound on Lake Pewaukee when Lucy got stuck up a tree in Seattle. It took three days of coaxing, cooing, cross-continental phone conferences and finally a Seattle City Light worker who asked us not to tell his boss, to get her out of the tree.
Ever since then she has pretty much stayed inside Gwen’s courtyard garden, patrolling her defensive perimeter and shrieking at intruders. Sometimes at dusk I see her atop the fence or rolling on her back in the alley, but there’s a lot for a cat to do inside Gwen’s fence. (There’s a lot for Gwen to do, too, as she has a magnificent European-style jardin in there.)
Ok, that’s the neighborhood cat update. What’s on my list? Ah geez. Taxes.