Look What The Cat Dragged In
© Copyright 2003 by Seth Chambers
On Tuesday, it was a field mouse. Dead. Pest presented the gift to me in the kitchen, her whiskers twitching with satisfaction. I praised her - I believe in praising my pets for shows of devotion - promptly scooped the rodent into a dustpan and flung it out the back door. Pest, huntress by nature, scurried out after the meat I was intending to waste. What must she have thought?
On Wednesday, it was a chipmunk. Still alive, albeit with teeth marks in the nape of its neck. I caught Pest just as she was passing through the dining room, stunned rodent hanging from her jaws. I petted her, said some words of praise, and she let the critter go. At which time it suddenly got unstunned and took off across the dining room floor, feline hot on its tail. Then my other two cats -Zooey and Yetti-joined in the chase. The chipmunk disappeared among furniture, laundry baskets, boxes and miscellaneous piles of junk my wife keeps strewed about the house. Back when I was a bachelor, I kept my place neat and it was no problem reacquiring the Catch of the Day. Now, however, there was tons of stuff everywhere. Old stereos, boxes of books and bathroom supplies and toys and God-knows-what-all. Not that I’m complaining. So there was a chipmunk loose in the house. The cats would get it eventually. I let the matter go.
On Thursday and Friday, it was dead moles. Or voles. Or whatever. Anyway, I praised, scooped, and flung.
On Friday, though, ‘ole Pest really lived up to her name. She brought in a live bat. Just as a storm rolled in. Quite creepy. Not that I’m usually afraid of bats, but then I usually don’t have one flying around inside my house. I got a paper sack, which took awhile ‘cause all you ever get from the grocery store now is plastic. Plus, the whole time I’m looking, I’m also trying to keep my cats from jumping up and snagging the poor creature. Somehow, I could leave a chipmunk to their disposal, but not this bat. I got a paper grocery sack and started chasing the bat around the house, and all the while, the cats are having an absolute blast. They’re all jumping up after it, and I’m grabbing them in mid-air before they can harm the poor bat, and the bat is just going… well, bats. Diving, swooping, flying in crazy circles, figure eights, and loop-de-loops.
Then, two things happened one right after the other: first, Liz came home from work, tired and grumpy; second, there’s a big clap of thunder and the lights flicker once, twice, then go out. No problem for the bat, I suppose, as it gets around by sonar. But now I’m running around with three frantic cats under my arms looking for a flashlight. The bat is screeching, swooping, and diving and my fur balls are busy liberating the flesh from my body and Liz is stomping around the house yelling, “What the Hell is going on?” The bat careened by her in the dark and she let out a scream to curl your toenails. Finally, I found a flashlight, dropped the felines, and clicked the switch, just in time to see the bat flying right toward me like some winged demon. I swore, dropped the flashlight, bumped into Liz, stepped on a tail, fell over backwards, got stampeded by cats and tripped over by my lovely-but-angry wife.
For all my efforts and frustration, the bat escaped on its own, out the open kitchen door through which Pest had brought it in to begin with. That had been Friday.
Saturday was worse. I thought that maybe Pest would take a break, but instead she outdid herself. Liz was out shopping and I was reading a Louis L’amour novel on the couch when I heard the clanging of armor from the kitchen. Then a small voice shouting, “Demon from Hell, go back to whence thee came!” This, followed by neighing, whinnying, and a clattering of hooves on linoleum.
Now what? I wondered, sticking a bookmark in place and making for the kitchen. The other cats raced on ahead of me.
“Demons, stay back!” came that little voice.
I stepped into the kitchen and suddenly found myself taking a left turn from reality as I knew it. Pest was thwacking a six-inch-high medieval knight about the floor with one paw, clanging his armor but good. He raised his lance but Pest sent that sailing with a single good swipe. Zooey and Yetti were having a ball chasing the knight’s steed about. The charger’s hooves skidded something terrible on the kitchen floor so that the poor beast kept banging into the cupboard and once went sprawling.
I gaped, blinked hard several times, gasped, and took a step back. Then I forced myself to take some slow, deep breaths and am proud to report I got myself back together in relatively short order.
“No, no, no! Bad cats!” I shouted, not about to praise this kind of behavior, even if it was intended as a show of devotion. Which I doubt it was. “Bad cats!”
But they paid me no mind. So, I went over and picked Pest up, quite against her will. She rabbit-kicked me in the chest and bounded back to the floor. I put a hand out to keep her away from the knight. Then, while my attention was on Pest, a nasty, stabbing pain bored into my heel. I turned and there’s the knight. While I was dealing with Pest, he apparently had retrieved his lance and was now driving it for all he’s worth right into the back of my foot. And, to top it all off, he has the effrontery to call me a demon from Hell!
I screamed and swore, visions of tetanus shots dancing through my head. Pest took off after the steed, seeing that the other two cats were having so much fun with it. Meanwhile, the knight just kept driving that lance into my foot, like he’s drilling for oil. Saturdays just aren’t supposed to go like this! But oh well. I took care of the first order of business, which was removing the lance from my flesh. The knight cursed me and informed me that I was the spawn of Satan. I snatched him up while he was fabricating more trivia about my lineage, careful not to hurt him. He couldn’t quite stab me with the lance from this position, so he contented himself with pounding my knuckles with his armored hand. It hurt but I ignored the pain and went to pick up the horse. The horse reared up and got me two good swipes on the forearm with his front hooves. The knight guffawed and shouted praises to the horse (another man who believes in praising a pet’s show of devotion) and curses at me. Then Zooey made a jump for the knight. I followed my first instinct and pulled the knight away from my cat’s trajectory. Alas, that brought the knight closer to my face, which gave him the opportunity to jab that lance right into my cheek. He took full advantage of this opportunity. I screamed and dropped the knight, who landed on the floor with a clang of armor and a whoop of victory.
I swore quite loudly, which sent the cats cowering for a moment. This gave the knight and his steed time to make their escape. However, they did not exit through the open kitchen door as the bat had sense enough to, but rather made for the dining room. Then they crossed into the carpeted living room, where the charger was able to get better traction.
The knight hopped up on his steed and they charged into the master bedroom. They took refuge in a basket of laundry and camped out among my wife’s lingerie. I overheard the knight talking, saying to his horse, “I believe, my old friend, that our travails have brought us at last to Shangri-la.”
That made for quite a Saturday.
On Sunday, Liz set out early for a bike ride and I set out for the couch and another novel, this one an Elmore Leonard thriller. I hadn’t read but a few pages when there was an absolute commotion in the kitchen: snarling, growling, hissing and every now and then a dull, heavy “thwok!” sound.
With a sigh, I put down my book and trudged in to see what the matter was this time. I don’t think the cats carried this creature in so much as herded it, as a group effort, and carefully, at that. It lumbered forth slowly, deliberately. It looked like a tiny army tank with legs and spikes jutting out from its body, and a thick tail armed with a dense club on the end, which is what was making that “thwok!” sound. “Thwok!” Its club slammed down on the floor and the cats all jumped back. “Thwok!” It put a crack in my wastebasket.
I recognized it as some sort of dinosaur, even though not one made popular by the media, like a velociraptor. It plodded along, menacing the cats as much as they menaced it. This gave me time to grab my dinosaur reference book and look it up. Ankylosaurus, is what it was. Or, rather, a Lilliputian version, as the actual dinosaur measured ten meters long and weighed in at a hefty seven tons, whereas this guy was only about the length of my hand.
Ankylosaurus lived 65 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period. But apparently they had not gone extinct, just gotten much smaller. My book showed ankylosauruses by a lake. I picked the creature up-“thwok!” went his club on my knuckles-and carried him off to a nearby pond. By the time I got there, my hand was scraped and bleeding.
I was back on the couch finishing my novel when Liz returned from her ride, glistening with sweat.
“Your darling feline was chasing something around the field out back,” she said in a mock-accusing voice.
“Our darling feline,” I corrected.
“Oh, dear, you hurt your hand,” she cooed, seeing the ravages from the mini ankylosaurus.
“My hand’s fine. C’mere, you know how much I like the way you look in Lycra.”
“I’m all sweaty.”
“I know. I’m hoping to make you sweat some more.”
I grabbed her and pulled her down to the couch.
A few minutes into our tryst, the oddest assortment of sounds came from the kitchen: an electronic hum, banging, crashing, beeping and unearthly musical tones. A moment later, a tiny disc flew by, lit from within. Our darling felines were in hot pursuit.
“What… What the…?” Liz gasped.
“Just the cats playing, dear. Just the cats.”
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