Several readers have commented about Ernest’s eyes in the Halloween post, so I will clarify: their evil glow was merely the reflection of late-night lamplight.
Similar to the eyes of a wild animal caught in the headlights on a dark, deserted highway.
But there’s nothing wild about Ernest. He generally looks like this:
That trick of light is the scariest thing about him. He’s three years old, and when he hears a knock on the door, he still runs upstairs and crawls under the bed.
We’re proud of the recent strides he’s made. After hiding from guests for over a year, he’s started prancing downstairs, snuffling shoes, and jumping into the lap of one human per evening. We thought at first he wanted make friends. It finally dawned on us that he always zeroes in on the person sitting in the recliner. That’s my chair. He considers it his chair. I am allowed to sit there, but he wants strangers evicted.
Speaking of scary, the most frightening thing in our house is William in repose. Because this snuggly strawberry blond is a canny creature, sharp and shrewd, possessed of a sly wit and a subtle intellect. William doesn’t sleep. He schemes.
We got the official word today: William weighs nearly 19 pounds. To my sorrow, the veterinarian said he’s not overweight–he’s just enormous.
I’m sorry because I had hoped she would put him on a diet, reduce him by two or three pounds, and thus save me several visits to the massage therapist. Lugging his carrier from house to car and from car to receptionist’s desk has more than once resulted in parts of my sacroiliac going AWOL.
It happens every time we board them: We stuff the cats into their crates. David carries Ernest; I carry William. Four hours later, changing planes in Atlanta (or Charlotte or Chicago or Houston or New York City or Seattle), David hoofs it down the concourse like a cross between Rudolph Nureyev and Roger Bannister, and I limp along twenty yards behind, Quasimodo dragging a carry-on.
And since William has been pronounced a perfect 10, so I will continue.
When I left him at the vet’s this morning, I wasn’t convinced he was healthy. He’d had a minor tummy problem, one the Internet had assured us was probably nothing to worry about. But when it’s your kid, or your cat, you worry anyway, at least a little.
The doctor, however, agreed with the Internet. The cause of his ailment isn’t clear, but it falls under the heading of “Sometimes Cats Do That.” We hauled him home. He’s happy to be back with Ernest and has said he might someday forgive me.
We also hauled antibiotic (1/4 tablet, twice daily, use a syringe to keep fingers out of danger), oral paste (1 dose twice daily, wait 30 minutes after administering antibiotic, just push it through his teeth), and a week’s worth of dry and canned catfood (gastroenteric). Both cats will eat the food. There’s no way we can separate them at dinner time, which lasts 24 hours.
William was a gentleman while in the examining room, which is more than I can say for him at the beginning of the expedition. He squalled from door to door and kept up the screeching even after being deposited in the vet’s reception room next to a pit bull awaiting vaccination. When Ernest sees a dog, he clams up and concentrates on making himself invisible. William says All Places Are Alike to Him, and if the dog objects to his caterwauling, he can just get over it. That’s the same message he gave me when I tried to shush him.
The vet asked one question that still hangs between David and me, unanswered: “Has William been under any stress?”
We discussed it over dinner at the Magnolia. David has been under stress. Ernest has been under stress (Ernest has an overly active fight-or-flight response). I have been under such stress that I couldn’t even put a meal on the table this evening.
But stress and William don’t move in the same circles.
Except once. Less than a week after William became part of our family, Ernest developed a severe gastrointestinal upset and had to stay at the hospital. The next morning, William stopped eating (unheard of), ran a high fever, and became lethargic. He lay unmoving in my lap. Almost catatonic, no pun intended. I raced him to the vet. She checked him out and then put him in the cage with Ernest.
Six hours later, when I called for an update, William’s temperature was normal and he was “eating like a horse.” All better. He just needed his brother.
But for the past three years, William has been serene. He’s not reactive. At times I wonder whether he even has reflexes.
Only two stimuli energize him: his partner in crime, and his toys.
At present, William lies across the room from me, his back turned. He knows he’s supposed to swallow 1/4 tablet before bedtime. He remembers I’m going to push oral paste through his teeth. He knows he’s nowhere near critical condition. He knows I know it.
He’s waiting me out, hoping I lose my nerve.
Frankly, my dear, his plan is working. I’m going to bed.
And as for the inevitable showdown, I’ll think about it tomorrow.
Note: I shan’t really continue lugging William to the kennel. In future, I have dibs on Ernest. He weighs in at 16 pounds.
Last week, Ernest claimed the chair I consider mine. When I got out, he jumped in. When I wanted to sit down, I had to wrestle him out. That’s why the photo shows Ernest lying in the chair.
The laptop is in the chair because one night several months ago, when the laptop was sitting on the floor beside the chair, its usual resting place, Ernest chewed through the cable running from the laptop to the fan beneath. The cable was hardwired, so I had to buy a new fan. The next night Ernest chewed through the cable running to the new fan. Fortunately, that cable was replaceable.
Ernest had never shown interest in any of the cables decorating our home, and he’d been peacefully coexisting with the fan cable for two years. I don’t know why he snapped.
I’ve now treated all wires and cables with dishwashing soap.
Anyway, since Ernest’s oral fixation got the best of him, the laptop has spent its nights in the chair, covered by a pillow. William sometimes sleeps on the pillow. On the day I took the photo, Ernest took possession of the chair before the laptop was tucked in.
That’s why Ernest is lying on the laptop.
While we’re on the topic, here’s a picture of the stationary bicycle I bought in January. At Academy. Brand new.
(William, I fear, though he’s neither gnawer nor clawer, may not be entirely innocent in this matter.)
When I discovered the bike’s new look, I wasn’t pleased. I’ve managed to convince myself, however, that function is more important than form. And form can be altered.
I could knit the bike a sweater. And buy Ernest a straightjacket.*
*I can hear readers saying, “What is wrong with this woman? Why does she put up with this?” For three reasons: 1. I love the cats, even Ernest. 2. They’re not generally destructive–don’t tear up carpets, baseboards, cabinet doors, so far haven’t broken any china (although I once came upon William on the verge of pushing the salt shaker off the table, so china isn’t a slam dunk,) and spend most days sleeping and being cute. 3. I don’t want a divorce.
The first screening of “Invisible Men Invade Earth” was an unqualified success.
I should say the first two screenings.
David’s video was scheduled to run at 7:00 p.m. However, due to the enthusiasm of the folks operating the projector, it began at 6:47, right after the Doc Bloc had finished.
Most of the audience had left the theater for the break, so very few saw “Invisible Men.” Just in time, however, the manager appeared and announced the mistake. And “Invisible Men” ran again at the official time.
Now about the unqualified success: The audience laughed. Those who saw it the first time returned after the break telling others, “It’s about a space ship and aliens and cats.” Then they watched and laughed again. So did newcomers.
I don’t know what David learned from the experience, but here’s what I took away from it: When making videos, cast cats in starring roles. Viewers laugh at cats, even when said cats do nothing but lie around being cats.
Viewers laughed at David’s script, too. One line in particular drew a roar. It elicited the same response during a showing for friends in our living room.
The laughter of friends is good.
But when strangers laugh, you know you’ve done something right.
And if David doesn’t know that, something is radically wrong. Because Mrs. Producer Davis has informed him of the fact at least ten times this evening alone.
Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, stresses the importance of both writing and playing. At the WLT Summer Writing Retreat, Karleen Koen reminded students of Cameron’s Artist’s Date—a weekly solo “adventure” to feed the soul and allow for continued creativity.
Since leaving the retreat, I’ve been thinking about possibilities for my Artist’s Dates. A visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a candidate, though it’ll probably wait until spring. Central Texas affords plenty of potential for adventure.
But having just returned from a week-long Artist’s Date, I decided to concentrate first on writing.
I designated yesterday, my first day out of post-retreat depression, a day for writing.
Here’s how it went:
I rose at a reasonable hour and prepared to leave for my coffee-shop office.
Downstairs, doling out catfood, I realized that in the half-hour I’d been up, I’d seen no cats. This had never happened. William often sleeps late, but Ernest is up with the chickens and frequently makes sure I am, too.
I called, ran upstairs, searched, called. William, draped across his pagoda, opened his eyes and blinked but offered no opinion as to Ernest’s whereabouts.
I ran downstairs, called, searched, dropped to my knees and peered under furniture. I ran back upstairs, etc.
Finally dropping at the right place, I found Ernest under the bed. He was sitting in that compact way cats have, with all his feet neatly tucked in. His look wasn’t warm and welcoming. When I tried to drag him out, he wriggled loose and ran into the hall and thence into the guest room and under that bed.
At that point, I remembered a get-well card I sent my great-aunt Bettie: On the front was a drawing of an orange-striped cat, looking bored, and saying, “Feeling poorly? Do as I do.” Inside, it said, “Crawl under the porch.”
We had no porch, so Ernest crawled under the next best thing.
I put batteries in the flashlight and girded my loins. Negotiating the guest room is not a task for the faint of heart. There’s stuff in there.
Back on my hands and knees, aka standing on my head, I again located Ernest. He was lying, neatly tucked, in the corner near the wall. Stretching out on the carpet, I reached under and scratched his ears. He didn’t protest. His big green eyes, however, told me I’d better not make any sudden moves.
Then I did.
Ernest is heavy and muscular. His twenty toes are tipped with talons. He has teeth.
Like Barry Goldwater, he believes extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
I believe in keeping as much of my blood as possible on the inside of my skin.
I also believe extremism in the pursuit of getting my children to the veterinarian is a necessary evil. This evil was necessary.
Ernest suffers from what might be termed a sluggish constitution, which is aggravated by his habit of putting foreign objects into his mouth. And swallowing them. Mainly bits of string and thread. They don’t have to be on the floor. He pokes around on tables and steals anything that strikes his fancy.
The first time he withdrew from society, two years ago, I had to authorize X-rays, ultrasound, and a simple procedure he really really didn’t like. It seemed best, this time, to seek medical attention before a minor problem became major.
Well, to summarize: Ernest hid under the bed from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. I spent a goodly portion of that time supine on the floor trying to regain his trust. I spent the rest of the time downstairs, sneezing my head off because of all the dust bunnies under there with him.
In desperation, I took his jingly collar, the one he refuses to wear, and lay down by the bed and jingled at him. He purred and gnawed on the collar. Then he flopped over onto his back and I administered belly rubs. He had a lovely time. I went back downstairs and sneezed until my throat was raw. Then I coughed. I couldn’t stop coughing.
Having neither cough drops nor unexpired cough medicine, I poured a tiny bit of some extremely aged Jim Beam (my mother bought it to put on her Christmas applesauce cakes over twenty years ago) into a glass and added the dregs of David’s hummingbird sugar and drank it from a spoon. The first sip tasted pretty bad, and it didn’t do much for the cough, but by the time I was finished sipping, my concern for Ernest had eased considerably.
Anyway, as I sat in the living room taking my medicine, Ernest appeared downstairs. He sashayed into the kitchen. I heard him crunch two or three bites of food. Then he doubled back. Sneak that I am, I lured into my lap. Then I grabbed him and stuffed him into the waiting crate and headed for the vet’s.
Ernest protested, of course, at first. But as soon as the two big dogs in the vet’s waiting room charged up to his crate to pant hello, he decided confinement had its advantages and shut up.
Getting his weight was the first order of business. I was not surprised to learn he weighs 17 pounds. My spine had already intimated I would be making a trip to the chiropractor in short order.
After some poking and prodding and determining this was indeed the result of ingesting thread, and addressing that problem, the doctor said cats like linear objects. I said I’d noticed.
He gave me three choices: take him home and give him meds and watch him for 24 hours; leave him there for meds and the procedure he really really doesn’t like and pick him up at 5:00 p.m.; or be referred to another vet for X-rays because he’s moving his office up the street and his machine was all to pieces.
He said choice #1 would have been fine for his cat, but I told him I liked choice #2. Leaving Ernest would ensure he was unclogged. If I took him home and he crawled under the bed again, I might never get him out.
I hated sentencing him to a procedure. But if he hadn’t eaten something unacceptable, he wouldn’t have been in this fix.
As agreed, David and I picked Ernest up at 5:00 p.m., bought a tube of Laxatone, and hauled him home. He’s fine now, thank you, and appears to have forgiven me. I assume the scratch I got trying to remove him from my person in the middle of last night was unintentional.
That is the story of my day set aside for writing.
I’m trying to decide whether it qualifies as an Artist’s Date.