"In the beginning, God created man, but seeing him so feeble,
He gave him the cat."
Yesterday was a long day. Just when I thought I couldn't cry or sleep anymore, I closed the book I was trying to read through swollen, puffy eyelids and rolled back over into what I thought would be la la land. Sweetie lay beside me, lulling me to sleep with the rythym of his pretzel crunching. His reading light was tilted away from me, yet it still shone like a beacon lighting up the room. I pulled the covers over my head in the time tested way of darkening my space.
Most nights the cats wait for us to get settled before they come in and get themselves comfortable. Girl Cat, aka Cry Baby, and more recently Fatty Catty, is not the least bit shy. She leaps on the bed with the greatest of ease, walks the path between Sweetie's legs and mine, ducks under - or over- my book, and plops herself down across my chest. Once there, she closes her eyes and falls into a deep sleep without giving me a second glance. I am, apparently, her pillow.
On the other hand, Boy Cat, aka Scaredy Cat, has a totally different approach. He waits for the room to be silent, for the dog to get settled, and for the sounds of Sweetie adjusting his pillows to quiet down. Then like a Navy Seal invading a terrorist bunker, he stealthily (a word?) enters the room. He sits beside my night stand and stares at me. Like most felines, his patience was born generations ago on some Serengheti plane. Waiting for a gazelle to approach the watering hole, or for me to turn just right so that there is a minisucle piece of mattrass where he can curl up, the black one watches for his opportunity to pounce.
Once in front of my book, he lets out a tiny little meow, then begins to mark me as his own personal territory. This process is repeated as many times as Sweetie sneezes, the dog enters or leaves the room, a car goes by outside, or Girl Cat gives her brother the evil eye.
Eventually the lights are turned out. Sweetie and I kiss goodnight, turn to our respective sides and fall asleep. In the last few weeks, I've noticed Girl Cat squeezes her rather large belly into the space between our pillows without making a sound or disturbing either of the human sleepers. Boy Cat is long gone as all he really wants to do is be satisfied he knows where everyone is.
Because this scene plays itself out almost every night, I was not surprised when Girl Cat jumped up on bed. I was startled, however, by the sound she was making. Not quite a growl, or a purr. Not even her regular sounding baby meow. No, this sound was more like, "Hey guys, look what I brought you ... it's a prize for sure. Come on, look here."
I opened half an eye and turned my focus to the end of the bed. Sure enough there was the cat proudly standing guard over her brown, 8-legged gift. In Florida these grotesque insects are called Palmetto bugs. Most every where else they are know as roaches. They are drawn to the Floridian dampness. I suspect once the lights are out at night, they come out and have a party running through the kitchen looking for palmetto bug treats left on the floor. I have placed roach hotels in every nook and cranny of the house. Still they come, unafraid of man or beast or repellant chemicals.
I've seen the cats chase bugs or lizards but I rarely see them catch one. I believe the fun is in the chase. So I was a little surprised by She Cat's presentation of her catch. Is it possible that she was aware of how I'd been feeling all day and was just offering up some catlike sympathy? Is it possible that in the world of cats, that dropping a winged Palmetto bug, turned up on its back, with his whiskered legs moving in all directions on your bed is another way of saying, "there, there, everything is going to be okay?"
I used to be afraid of the beastly bugs. I still don't like them. Who would, except for another roach? I've learned to smash the guts out of these disgusting creatures just like my mom used to. In fact each time I stand poised, flip flop raised over my head ready to move in for the kill, I have a vision of my mom. Whack! She knew how to wield her rubber shoe to get the most effect.
Unafraid, but still not wanting to sleep with this crawly thing, I grabbed a tissue to encase the bug and deposit him in the toilet. Dang if it didn't move. Shit! It moved! This is a totally different story. There is now a live creepy bug - call it a roach or a Palmetto bug, either way it's way creepy - in our bed. He zips straight for the open space up the leg of Sweetie's drawers.
"He's on you!" I scream. He's on you!" Sweetie looks up from the page he's reading, with little or no care. Good God Almighty, there is a roach about to crawl up his shorts and he just lies there.
"He's on you!" I scream with a bit more gusto. The bug makes a hasty detour and dives for cover under one of the pillows or the blanket. I can't tell which. I'm screaming and waving a Kleenex and pounding the bed. The cat is rather upset to find her prize is gone. Sweetie is robotically moving in slow motion.
"Dammit, he's on you!" I yell once more. This time my shouting convinces Sweetie to hop out of bed. I see the little bugger, stopping to catch his breath and decide which way to run - towards the open jaws of the killer kat, towards the pretzels or towards MY pillow. At the very thought of sleeping where this creature had trod I became the angel of death. I moved in, squished that sucker at least to a point of unconsciousness and ran him to the toilet.
All this happened in a relatively short period of time. My depressed and weary body came to life which was a sign that I wasn't as far gone as I thought just a few minutes before.
I walked back to the bedroom, looking for the cat. She raced down the hall in the opposite direction. I yelled after her. "UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO EVER DO THAT AGAIN," I scolded as if she was going to take my words to heart.
I warily approached the bed, my skin still crawling from the very thought of the nastiness. Then Sweetie started laughing. He sat down on the now bugless bed and had himself a good belly laugh. "He's on you, he's on you" he chortled, mocking my concern for his private parts. Not sure what was so funny, I watched and listened to the man I love laugh.
There is something delightfully recuperative about the sound of laughter. I needed to hear that particular music before I went to sleep.
I don't really believe that the silly cat had that whole scenario planned out when she jumped on the bed with her prize. She's a cat - not a psychologist or intuitive. Just a furry black feline doing what felines do. Still, I have to wonder.
There was an article in todays paper about training a dog to detect a diabetic's drop in blood sugar just by the smell. I'm not sure if it is possible that my cat sensed my blues and decided to drop a roach on the bed as a way to pull me out of myself. Regardless, I slept soundly and awoke refreshed for the first time in weeks.
My new motto: Don't look a gift "roach" in the mouth. It might just make you laugh.