I’m sitting with Salem and Sasha. We are discussing the best method for approaching this cute feline that’s standing in our yard. She’s chatting with a squirrel and she’s breathtaking.
“You should just tiptoe up to them, slow and quiet like, and join in their conversation. Like you were there the whole time.” Sasha smiles at me.
“I don’t know,” I flounder, unable to commit.
“No, no. Don’t listen to her. You have to walk up with swagger. Walk fast and hard and swing that tail,” Salem says.
I start to take a small step when Sasha says, “Tiptoe slow.”
“No, walk fast,” Salem counters, raising his voice.
“Tiptoe!” Sasha yells.
“Run!” Salem screams.
I get nervous and end up doing both at the same time, kind of a running tip toe. Three steps in, I fall flat on my face.
Salem grins, “Yep. That got her attention.”
Salem is looking out the window, watching a ragged-looking squirrel eat when I walk up.
“What are you doing?”
“I left some food out for that squirrel. I think he’s homeless.”
“Ah. That’s nice of you.”
“I think I’ll go talk to him, maybe be his friend.”
“Don’t do that.”
“What if you find out he’s not homeless? How will you feel good about yourself then?”
My sister Sasha noticed our brother slumped over the sofa and asked, “What’s wrong with Salem? He doesn’t look so good.”
I glance over at him, “Oh, he’s in an advanced stage of starvation, that’s all.”
“But we just ate thirty minutes ago.”
I’ve had a really rough week dating wise. I stare into the mirror and inventory my growing list of imperfections. There seem to be quite a few: stubby whiskers, flabby muscles, bowling ball eyes, etc… I sigh in defeat and rub my ever expanding tummy.
My little brother walks up, “What are you doing?”
“I’m wondering if trimming my fur will make me appear thinner.” I break into laughter.
“Why are you laughing?” he asks.
“Because I’m out of Kleenex.”
Salem walks in while I’m writing in my journal and asks, “Is that your diary?”
“It looks like a menu.” He takes a paw and points at an entry, “Tuesday: Kibble, Wednesday:Kibble, Thursday:Kibble, Kibble.”
“And your point?” I ask, blinking.
“Ok,” he scratches his head, “but why two Kibbles on Thursday?”
“Oh, that was the day I started my diet.”
“So then, why two?”
“I thought about eating the extra lean Kibble first, but then I decided not to. Instead, I rewarded myself with double Kibble for considering such a healthy choice in the first place.” I beam with pride, “Diet success depends on a good reward system. You wouldn’t understand.”
I hear a tapping. I glance around the room and hear it again. Tap, tap, tap. Then I see her.
At the window, tapping on the glass is the most beautiful white Persian I have ever seen. I muddle over to the window and manage a feeble “Hi.”
“Hi. I’m so glad to see you. I was walking through your yard, on my way to a friend’s house, when I stepped in poop. You didn’t cover it up at all, and now I have it all over my beautiful white fur. See how it’s stained brown now? It looks and smells awful, and now I have to see my friend like this.”
Her voice gets louder and louder as she talks, but I can’t stop staring at her eyes. “Are you a dog or something? Why didn’t you cover it? It’s simply offensive. You need to cover when you go. And don’t you have a litterbox you could be using? It really is the most disgusting thing. You need to come out here and clean up your yard!” She storms off just as my little brother Salem walks up.
“What did she want?” he asks, his head tilting in her direction.
I turn to him smiling and stammer, “She said she was so glad to see me.”
I walk up to the living room window to find a large and scary Russian Blue alley cat pounding on the glass. I gulp, a Russian.
“May I help you?” I squeak.
“I just beat up the Bulldog next door and I need a place to hide. ”
“Salem, it’s for you!”
I’m napping in the living room when I hear our human walk into the kitchen. Salem and I hop up at the same time and trot in after her. Time to wrangle some treats. I sit patiently by my food dish. There’s no need to beg. She’ll get the hint.
Salem walks over, purring like a freaking 18-wheeler, and starts rubbing against her legs.
I glare at him, “Really? You’re such a suck-up.”
He throws me a grin. Geez, whatever, that won’t work. She’s too smart for that crap. Then her hand reaches down and pets him. Well, la tee freaking da. “Big deal, you didn’t get any…” then she gives him a treat. Oh my God! I wish you would just die already. Death by hairball. You think you’re such a big deal because she pets you all the time. I only let her pet me when I feel like it. It’s a choice, asshole! I throw him my “I hate you” eyes and start to flip him my paw when …clink, clink, a treat drops into my bowl.
“Look, a treat.” I smile and eat my Friskies. Now, what was I doing?
Salem and I are lounging by the back window when a sudden screeching sound followed by loud hissing gets our attention. We simultaneously turn to look. A fight has broken out in our backyard.
Sitting on the grass is a dish containing extra large chunks of tuna, and next to it are two unknown alley cats from the area going at it like Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson! As we watch the scuffle, one cat seizes the other and bites him on the ear, drawing blood! Salem points a paw, “Did you see that?!”
“Yeah,” I murmur, trying to keep my Kibble from coming back up.
We both gasp as tufts of fur fly about like confetti. But like some horrendous car crash, we can’t seem to turn our eyes away and continue to watch in shock.
The hissing stops, and a series of low growls follow. And then, as suddenly as it started, one feline breaks away and sprints off. The other one slowly eats the tuna with his ears pinned back and his eyes darting around.
Salem looks at me and whispers, “That. Was. Intense.”
I exhale, “I know, did you see that tuna?”
Bored, I walk over by the window to play with my favorite toy. Then I spot something out of the corner of my eye.
I nod, “Well, well, well, what have we here?” There’s a cute little calico walking by.
“Wait, wait!” Oh crap, she saw me pick up this stick toy and is walking away before I can pretend that I was just moving it over!! Noooooooooooo!!
“Well, that’s it. She thinks I’m a moron.”
Salem walks up and smiles, “Nah, she thinks you’re a moron that plays with stick toys.”
I look down at my bowl and then at Salem, “Our dinner is late again. We have to do something about this. Now.”
“You’re right. You go scratch up her sofa and I’ll stand by and bore holes through her with my eyes.”
“Why do I have to do the hard part? She might get mad.”
“Because I have delicate features. I could never survive on the outside.”
I look at him, “Outside? You think she might ban us to the outside?”
“There are spiders outside,” I glance tentatively out the window.
“Okay. I say we let this one slide, but I have my eyes ready. Next time my dinner is late, she gets my ‘This Kibble is lukewarm and late and about to be flying across the room’ stare.”
I nod in agreement and hurriedly eat my Kibble before a spider appears in the window.
I’m sitting at the window, chatting with my friend, Chip, a chipmunk who lives at Plath Cottage next door, when I see a dog down the road.
“Sometimes I think my human would have preferred that I was a dog instead of a cat,” I ponder aloud, “I often feel like I’m letting her down in some way, and I can never live up to her expectations.”
“Really? How?” Chip’s eyes look into mine as if he himself is searching for the same answer.
“Well, she’s spent years trying to train me to fetch that felt ball over there.” I point a paw to the corner of the room where a faded old brown ball lays, unused. “I do try to follow her finger when she points, but I can never quite figure out what she’s pointing at. We just both end up being frustrated and saddened by the experiences.”
“Oh, that’s too bad.” He tenderly pats my back, in an effort to console me.
“I finally mastered it, though,” I resume.
“Oh, so you learned how to fetch it, huh?”
“God, no,” I laugh, “I learned how to live with her disappointment.” I smile, “It’s really easy once you get the hang of it.”
There’s a cute Maine Coon that walks through my yard each afternoon. I’ve been working up the nerve to talk to her all week. It’s not as easy as it sounds, actually, but I’ve been practicing. I’ve gone over it several times in my head, and when Salem isn’t around, I practice it out loud.
“Hi, your fur looks amazing today.”
“Hi, your fur looks amazing today.”
“Hi, your fur looks amazing today.”
Okay, here she comes. I got this. I can do it. She walks up, and I take a deep breath and exhale, “Feather. I licked a feather yesterday.”
I hang my head as she walks on past. Yep, that’s about right.
When my brother, Salem, pushes my buttons, I immediately revert back into my five-year-old self. Sensing that this same phenomenon must be happening to him, I decide to use it to my advantage.
Salem has a third date with Tabby today. A third! It kind of annoys me. So when she comes over to see him, I say “Hi” in my most mature and polite voice.
Salem struts up and throws out a, “Hey,” all casual like, as though he had no previous plans with her, and this is all spur of the moment. I cringe inside. So, while they are talking, I stick my paw out and just ever so slightly touch him.
He cuts his eyes at me but continues his conversation unfazed. A second later, I slowly extend my paw and just barely graze his fur with the tip of my claw. His lips tighten, and he throws me another warning look. You know, the one that says, “I will tear your head off if you do it again.”
So, I do it again.
This time he loses it. A minute later, he’s sitting on my chest and holding my bottom paws to my nose and sneering, “Smell it! Smell those dirty paws!” I smile.
Then I glance over at Tabby, who is standing there, eyes bulging and mouth hanging open at the sight of her date: five-year-old Salem. That’s when I know my work here is done.
God, I love being a sibling.
I see my little brother Salem heading for the water dish, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
He pauses in front of the dish, “Why? What’s wrong?”
I smile and launch into my spiel, “Well, earlier, my tummy wasn’t feeling good, so I went to the litter box. After that, I, of course, cleaned up. But that left my mouth dry and parched, so I drank some water. So, if you drink that water, it’s basically like you…”
Salem holds his paw up, “Stop. I beg of you not to finish that sentence.”
He turns his head to the side and dry heaves, “You’re a horrible brother, do you know that?”
I smile and trot away, “I know.”
Salem came back from his date with the Tabby seething. “All she could talk about was how bad my breath was, what a crock! I don’t have bad breath, do I?”
I glance at him, “You’re just cranky because you have low blood sugar. You’ll feel better after a Tic Tac.”
My little brother Salem has a date with the Tabby down the street today. He’s been bragging about it all week.
When she arrived at the door, I waited close by to see him in action. He was smooth, I must admit. He managed to stand in a way that oddly highlighted his flexed muscles. I bent over to try it myself and pulled a hamstring.
He complimented her fur and whiskers. She giggled. Really?
He leaned in to sniff her, and instead, let out a loud and thunderous burp, right in her face. I pulled another hamstring, laughing.
It was the highlight of my week. The best part is, I now have a story to tell at every gathering EVER until I die. I began imagining all the people I would tell this to and the reactions I would get. I would suddenly become the life of the party. I could milk this story for years. I might even manage a date or two myself out of it.
The next time Salem teases me about my little pudge, I’ll say, “Oh yeah, well, at least I didn’t burp in my date’s face!” Take that. Or when he beats me at Catopoly, I will add, “Maybe I should just burp on you!” Burn.
Oh, the possibilities are endless. What I’ve learned from all this is that the phrase “This too shall pass” doesn’t apply to family.