To lighten the mood in here, a bit, I've decided to post an old column I wrote about my cats, around the year 2000.
Gifts from the HeartHunched deeply in the grass, her belly pressed low and her rear end twitching with anticipation as she stalked, my black-and-white cat prepared herself for the kill.
"Spooky! Stop that!" I threw open the back door, hoping the jangling bells that hung from the doorknob would frighten away the targeted prey; a blur of feathers confirmed my success. I had belled the cats but the dangling alarms were useless, the cats' luxuriant movements too graceful to stir a tinkle from their tiny brass ornaments.
"I do not want any feathered gifts, thank you," I thought to myself. Spooky cowered in the grass for a moment, glared at me and retreated. Unless I called out the magic word, "chicken", she would not come running inside. With no chicken to offer, my attempts to lure Spooky into the house, away from the birds gathering their morning meals, only resulted in a quick dash under the shed. Our orange tabby, Sunshine, zipped through the door before I closed it, a bright streak of colored fur. If a door is open, Sunshine feels obligated to go through. She disappeared into the living room, intent upon shredding the end of my couch.
There is no shortage of animal life throughout the year in Mississippi, so I have become accustomed to the occasional deposits on my kitchen floor. Small green lizards are a favorite of mine. The cats have their own swinging door to the garage, through which they often drag a frightened little lizard, frequently missing a tail. I've learned how to catch them and release them outdoors, although sometimes they will skitter into dark crevices, forcing me to go about my business while I wait for them to reappear.
Birds are a different matter, as well as the reason our cats can no longer go through their cat flap, squeeze under a partially opened garage door and return inside. For a time, we lifted the garage door and locked it into place about five inches above the ground, allowing the cats to move inside and out freely. Then, one day we discovered both a dead bird in the kitchen and a live mouse running from room to room—two gifts at once.
While I drove to the store to seek some sort of mouse-catching contraption, teenaged Daniel "bonked him over the head with a shoe". I returned to find the poor mouse, dazed and backpedaling on the living room floor. The combination of mouse and flying feathers was enough to compel me to slam shut the door of freedom.
Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there. Between the garage doorframe and bricks, there is a sizeable gap I have never succeeded at getting my husband to block permanently. Through that gap, small animals frequently enter.
Recently, Spooky lay ailing, recovering from a vicious feline virus and cowering in the garage to avoid the human and her terrifying medicine dropper. As I sat typing at the computer, I heard the cat door open and close with a slap. Spooky had brought a very lively chipmunk through the door and deposited him in the kitchen. He promptly ran to the living area, where I sat, and desperately pawed at the window in a futile attempt to escape.
I leaped up and stood near the window, watching him and thinking, "How on earth do you catch a chipmunk?"
No need . . . the cat caught him and injured his little back. I tried to lift the cat—complete with chipmunk between jaws—to throw both her and the rodent outdoors; but she dropped him and the poor chipmunk staggered toward my teenager's bedroom window with surprising melodrama. By then, the chase had made it back through the kitchen and den, past William's feet—eliciting a tremendous squeal—and down the hallway to Daniel's room.
I fetched a plastic container with a lid and scooped the chipmunk in, then took him outside to release him, hoping he would recover from his wounds. Maybe the cat would recover from her virus soon, after all, I thought.
In spite of the occasional nuisance gift, there have been a few sporadic contributions that I enjoyed. My favorite surprise occurred on another occasion when I was writing. When the cat door flapped open and shut, I thought nothing of it until Sunshine made an odd noise. Her "meow" was different, more insistent than usual, strange enough to lure me to the kitchen. There it lay, coiled up in front of a proud cat, its forked tongue darting in and out.
"You brought me a snake? Thanks."
I admired colorful markings on the four-foot snake for a few moments, observing the teardrop-shaped head that indicated the snake was harmless. Then I picked him up and released him in the backyard, wishing I could find a way to keep him until the children arrived home but knowing he was better off outside.
Returning indoors, I rubbed Sunshine's neck. "You can bring me a snake anytime," I told her. She looked at me gratefully and sauntered off. Some gifts, it seems, are more appreciated than others.
"Gifts from the Heart" was published in T-Zero Xpandizine in September of 2002.
With Spooky by my side, I managed to finish a book, today, and hope to get around to reviewing it in the next few days. I can't thank all of you enough for your kind words, hugs and prayers.