Friday, October 24, 2008

Hell Cat

Otis is a big glossy cat with black fur. He has one white sock, a white belly and a skinny black tie running right down his middle. He has startled green eyes and spends his days bunkered down beneath the bed. The bed itself is worth noting. It’s from the big and clunky school of furniture design so popular in the seventies. Dark western inspired drawers and cupboards create storage underneath.

Upon our arrival here at the ranch, Otis immediately claimed the bed as his favorite hiding place. In fact, in the daylight, you wouldn’t even know we have a cat. Open the cupboard doors and let your eyes adjust to the darkness, and eventually his green eyes will come into focus.

He gazes at you disinterestedly, snuggled in among the socks , t-shirts and spare blankets. It looks quite cozy and no amount of coaxing will persuade him to come out. If you are really determined, shimmy in on your belly, grasp him by the scruff of his neck and pull him out- his body slack with reluctance. Then, block off the entrances to his cubby. Once he’s out, the place is full of sunny window sills to prowl, geraniums to munch and moths to chase.

It’s at night that he turns into a hellcat. The beautiful adobe house we are staying in has an open floor plan- one great big room with a slanted pine beam roof and plate glass windows that let the moonlight flood in. And no way to keep the hellcat out of our bed.

Most nights he’s content to tromp around investigating his surroundings. Sometimes he’ll even curl up and sleep at our feet. But, other nights, he gets restless.

It begins with a low wailing sound. He’ll jump onto the bed carrying his battered stuffed dingo in his jaws. He ripped its nose off long ago, and the creatures is in sad, unrecognizable shape. He wants you to throw it for him- oblige and he’ll bring it right back. Make it clear that you are not interested in playing fetch at three in the morning and he begins a restless circle across the bed. He leaps up and paces (behind the pillow if you are lucky, right across your head if you aren’t) across the bed and leaps down again. Again and again he repeats this pattern, moaning as he goes.

His night time agitation is understandable. After all, cats are nocturnal creatures that often sleep up to eighteen hours a day. So it figures that our sleep schedules won’t always mesh.

Initially, I try to maintain composure- perhaps because I am still half asleep. I try to calm him, pull him close to me, pet him. I shush him and soothe him, he begins to purr and eventually I drift back to sleep.

Plop! He has landed all his fifteen pounds right on my back. I am blasted awake and filled with a black fury. What is his problem?

Now Eric and I are both sitting up, fuming. Our bed has become a battle field. Otis pits his fifteen pounds of fur, claws, canine cunning and the considerable advantage of night vision against us. We must look a sight- trapped in a tangle of sheets, snarling furiously, bleary eyed, wild haired, pajamas rumpled, braced for his next attack.

He must feel some sly satisfaction in the act of battle. I’ll admit, we haven’t exactly been model parents. After our wedding, we sent him off to live with strangers- new people and new animals while we gallivanted through Africa and China. When we did finally come back to collect him, we loaded him into a car for a thirty hour drive and now expect him to sleep through the night in a sweet furry ball. His disgust and indignation are warranted.

But I still want a decent night of sleep. And my daytime sympathy for him dissolves with each nightly onslaught. Ah, for a bedroom door to shut.

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