Dear Cat (from Hell)

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, March 17, 2013

It’s nearly spring, my love.

You are making snorfing sounds as you eat a dinner I made by hand, with chicken livers and turkey, oatmeal and carrots. A dinner the pressure-cooked steam of which requires the house to be aired out a bit, windows opened, candles burned. A small price to pay for the promise of clemency, however fleeting.

I’m sorry I could not find organic liver for this particular pâté (I call it Fiesta Liver Medley), which I freeze in ice cube trays into tidy portions I thaw daily so that you can have a home-cooked meal as the sun sets. Is it the liver that has made you mad, as in King George mad, or Diary of a Mad Housewife mad, as in Mad as a hatter or Mad as a March hare? Mad as an orange cat born on the green of Saint Patrick’s Day: that’s you, in fact. A 100-proof blend of two euphemisms: spirited and spirited.

Right now, as I wonder again what to do about your claws and teeth, your swishing tail, psychotic mood swings, your nighttime rampages up and down steps and across every horizontal surface in the house, and knocking antique treasures down and shifting small rugs into scratched-up piles, I am on hold on the phone with someone at one of those window covering places. Because your latest sport, slicing the cellular blinds clear through, has rendered them instantly useless as insulators and unbelievably annoying to look at. Can you please stop doing this?

Your 128 ounces of terrorizing flesh have reduced me to begging, and so, on this, the eve of your seventh birthday, I am doing just that. Please. Pretty please with peanut butter and peppermint oil and potato chip crumbs and catnip on it.

I realize you can’t help it if your nails are razor-sharp rakes. You simply ache for them to find purchase on some innocent and unmarred surface, be it wool rug or puffy blind or, best of all, human flesh, which spurts a pleasing red goo when punctured and then leaves angry streaks that swell, handwriting I know you are proud of.

Admittedly, the scratching post has never been your cup of tea. And it certainly doesn’t help that no vet will have a go at your nails at this point. Remember the welder’s gloves they handed over to me the last time, when your soft, lichen-green eyes turned to discs of burning coal (in case anyone had doubts about how you felt about them touching your feet)?

Yes, I know the blinds bother you — prevent a view to the outside, which is your only hope during the long winter months when a single chickadee can change the suffocating timbre of a gray and lackadaisical day. But the salesperson I was waiting for has just returned and told me this: Not even wood blinds can be guaranteed as cat proof.

What am I to do here? What am I to do?

Well, all I know is: spring is upon us. And despite years of chronic and worsening behavior, once again I feel a sort of perplexing hope and optimism that things can unaccountably change. That you will mellow out, unwind your rubber-band-ball brain. That you’ll stop attacking my legs, one at a time as I go up the steps, or pounce at me from behind doors, or take swipes at anything that happens to catch your fancy. That you won’t jump jack-in-the-box up and claw my head when I am singing or speaking a foreign language (tell me why you hate this so much). That you won’t startle unsuspecting guests by biting them after having invited them to cootchie-coo your neck or the top of your head.

Sometimes, as I sing in the tub, which is one place you can’t get me, I wonder: is she a poltergeist in a cat suit? A mirror to me somehow (Mother of God, No.)? An imperial force blown through the dust of millennia from a past life in Egypt where she spent her days directing not one person but a retinue?

Spring! Do you hear the urgent rustle of the wind, my girl? The patter of tiny mouse feet as they scamper across warmer blacktop roads at night? Today, you demanded the door be opened at 7:30 in the morning and my guess is that, like us, you simply smelled the promise of brighter, longer and less bipolar days. The promise of amber and honeyed sun on your striped shoulders, the promise of butterflies and bees, and the hum we feel in our blood when March kicks in.

Happy Birthday, Wills. Maybe seven will be your lucky number. And mine.

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