Ryan Lee Price
I wanted to call her Arnold, but she wouldn’t have any part of that. I often thought, if maybe I had insisted, things would have turned out much different.
But they didn’t.
Early one morning, I awoke with a start and found myself standing in the hallway, dazed and disoriented. Apparently I was sleep-walking again, and just how long I had been standing there was a mystery to me, but there I was, staring at a photograph of my cat that hangs near the bathroom door. Behind me I heard the flip-flop of the cat door in the laundry room and the soft pitter-patter of four little paws belonging to my pet cat, appropriately named Cat, of course.
I cracked the sleep from my eyes to see two green orbits trotting toward my legs like a ghost creeping in the night, and soon, her shadowy form appeared through the cold stillness of the hallway. She wound her sleek body in and out of my legs and purred a slow steady resonance like the sound of a hedge trimmer far off in the distance. She must have wanted something, because she never came in at night; maybe her food dish was empty or a tougher cat had drifted into the neighborhood looking for trouble.
"Hey there, Cat," I mumbled hoarsely in the silent, midnight din, and
scratched the top of her head in small circles until her purring seemed
to reach a frenzied climax. "What do you say about a midnight snack?"
My eyes still hadn’t adjusted to the darkness, so I felt my way down the smooth walls of the hallway. A small light suddenly filled the kitchen, and I followed it like a beacon.
Cat had found her way into the refrigerator again. She can hang from the top shelf and, with her dexterous hind legs, shove food out onto the floor to inspect their contents and catch a dinner at the same time. As I walked around the corner, I saw Cat strain diligently, smashing a mustard jar onto the kitchen floor. I groaned, recalling the last time I had to re-tile the floor because of the stains.
In front of her lay a broken pickle jar, a shattered Italian olive jar, a large destroyed bottle of cranberry juice (slowly seeping into the porous terra-cotta) and last but not least, the crushed mustard jar, which she chose to indulge in first. I sat down and got comfortable. Cat would learn her lesson this time, and it was going to be interesting.
Before lapping up the industrial-heated, super-strength mustard—I got in a little shop in Mexico that was been fermenting in the back of my fridge for seven years—she looked up at me with satisfaction in her round, almost innocent, little eyes.
Cat lowered her small noggin, and as she did so, out popped her soft pink tongue. I couldn’t hold back a grin of knowledge, and when Cat lapped up a mouthful of the yellow fire, her head spun around like a pinwheel, the hair on her tail stood at attention and her eyes watered like Niagara Falls itself. In glee, I watched the great mouser scream around the house with a desolate howling cadence, like a wailing banshee from Gaelic folklore. The four-alarm fire dripping from her drooling mouth made her scream like a bottle rocket through the house.
I followed her trail of maddened destruction, and she led me around various rooms and closets, trying to escape the wrath of spices and heat. Over a multitude of tables and with a finalé across the piano (that Liberace would have been proud of), she ended up back on the kitchen floor, lying on her stomach with her legs protruding out like a tortoise in the desert’s sun. Her yellow, mustard-stained tongue drooped out, as she panted and moaned. A relieved look fell over her mug—except that her eyes had rolled back into her head—and I could tell something wicked was transforming in her mind.
Grabbing either side of her body, I jostled her to and fro, and a menacing growl reverberated low and deep within her throat, like a taunted tiger.
"What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?" I giggled, picking her up by her back feet and dangling her upside-down. She unleashed a terrible moaning bellow, like a stuck pig, so for my safety, I set her back down.
Before quietly ducking out of the kitchen, I really knew I was in trouble. Her eyes became windows into her soul, red like a dragon’s blood and as evil as Satan’s soul. She was crouching low, fiercely looking for her prey. Her ears were folded back flat on her head, and she was ready to assault something ... like me.
Halfway down the hallway, I heard her coming. With all the fiery death and destruction of cat hell, her blood-red eyes, lit with hate and revenge, screamed toward me.
I yelled out for help like a little baby, as she buried her razors into my leg. Cutting through the skin, her pearly whites struck blood like one strikes oil. Her arrow-headed talons dug ditches and reservoirs of blood across my shin, and she let loose, stepping back with satisfaction at what she had accomplished. Her aggressive incursion on my leg was not an act I took lightly, and through a barrage of four-letter words, I suggested Cat question her existence in the future.
Blood dripped from her teeth as she laughed. You know the way those tabbies laugh after they’ve just converted your limb into spaghetti sauce (the kind with the big chunks of tomato in it)? They smirk ... and that smirk turns into a smile ... and that smile breaks out into an all-out howl of demonic laughter. And then evil sets in, like pudding.
"Why you little ...! I’ll get you!" I yelled out, dancing around on one foot. "You’ll see, you little rodent!" I screamed again. "I’ll make you see what the inside of a wood chipper looks like!"
She nonchalantly threw her tail into the air and trotted into the living room.
In the bathroom, I sat on the counter with my foot in the sink and talked to my reflection.
"You can’t let a little cat push you around. Stand up to her ... show her you’re a man ... well, a human at least. Don’t let a little pussy cat from the third world of the animal kingdom overcome the power of a human!"
In the confusion, I had mistaken the hydrogen peroxide with the rubbing alcohol and doused a generous portion onto my leg. I screamed out as if a thousand needles pricked at the flesh on my leg.
In the living room, Cat was patiently curled up on the couch. She smiled slightly, as my screams of pain drifted into the room.
"War is afoot," I said through my teeth, stealthily limping out into the hallway with the determination of an angry mob. The blue and purple discoloration of my skin fanned out like a dead peacock basking in the bloody rays of the red sun, and my face burned with the wrath of Ares, as I leaped from my hiding place behind a table.
"Ah-ha!" I bellowed with a joyous giggle. "Caught you off guard, you no-good flea motel!"
Her reaction was slim. I expected her to run out of the room like a scaredy-cat should, so the foot chase I had counted on could begin, driving her through the kitty door so I could lock it and get some sleep. Instead, she peacefully strolled over to the wall between us, crouched down in the assumed position and urinated across the rug in front of me! Over the coffee table and up the back of the couch she streamed, and I cringed.
"Two can play at that!" I scoffed and followed her lead by leaving my own mark, similar and parallel to hers.
The battle lines were drawn. My move.
"Okay, little cat ... come here." Grabbing her by the tail and lifting her off of her haunches, she whined.
"Why are you such an evil little tabby?" I sneered in Cat’s face, petting her backwards until her fur knotted.
"Okay then, I think you go up here until you behave yourself." I placed her wiry body on a blade of the electric ceiling fan and hit the switch. A pitiful cry escaped her lips as Cat spun around on high speed for seven or eight turns before flying off into a tangent and onto the floor.
"She landed on her feet!" I mumbled to myself. "Well, we’ll see about that." I charged again, but this time she was too sprightly, bouncing away to count her remaining lives.
A moment later, I lost her. She was gone, but a good idea suddenly came to me.
"Where are you?" I held up a fist full of high-potency cat-nip, a months worth of dazed bliss for Cat ... and a match.
"I’ll burn it, if you don’t come out." I called out into the room, lit the match and held it under the cat-nip, singing a few strands. "Remember those cat-nip-induced naps in the window sill? Gone! I’m cutting you off, forever!"
A pitiful cry escaped from the mantle, but before I could reach her, she had climbed up the bricks, like in the refrigerator, and shoved a rather large vase onto my head.
I woke up a few minutes later.
It was still quite dark out, and my eyes stung. I wiped the blood from my forehead and picked out a few fragments of vase. As I did so, I became fiercely insane. To let one tiny kitten be dominant over me was much too much. I stormed off in search of her to finally put an end to the madness, an end to the insanity. A light meow in the distant night sparked fire into my eyes.
I crashed into the dining room, ready for action, violently throwing on the light. I stopped short, and my mouth dropped to the floor! I turned to run, but the door slammed shut behind me, and I was trapped! There was no place to go and nowhere to hide.
Every cat in a five-mile vicinity was summoned by my little Marquis de Siamese. Black ones, yellow ones, orange ones, white ones, red, blue, purple and green ones. All breeds, all creeds, great and small, tough and small were there in my dining room. Hanging from the curtains, swinging from the chandelier and sharpening their claws on my chairs, they were waiting for the bugle call.
Then it sounded.
All I saw was teeth and claws and eyes ... big green and blue eyes, glowing like the moon. I couldn’t breathe from the dust and fleas jumping and swirling around me, and despite my struggling, the cats surrounded me and held me down on the ground. There must have been hundreds and hundreds of felines, pinning me to the floor!
The second, third and fourth waves piled on top of me, and my world slowly stepped into the obscure bowels and catacombs of the unconsciousness. The screams and cries of the warriors on their mighty freedom crusade faded into nothingness.
I awoke suddenly with a start, screaming in terror at the picture of my cat that hangs on the wall near the bathroom. "It was just a dream," I breathed, gulping down my thumping heart.
Behind me, I heard the flip-flop of the cat door in the laundry room, and I looked down at Cat, her green eyes filling the darkness of the room.
A small devilish grin streaked across her face as she stood there, and behind her, I heard the flip-flop of the cat door, again ... and again ... and again. Soon the room was so full, they spilled out in the hallway toward me.
By then, it was too late to run.