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I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had much chance to play with my cats, Sara and Lucy. Playtime is usually around 9:30 in the morning, after I’ve had my oatmeal and they’ve licked the bowl. The bowl-licking is supposed to immediately lead into my saying, “Should I get the toy?”, prompting Sara to run back and forth between me and the door to the garage, where the toys are kept. I have to keep them out there because if I leave them in the house, Sara finds them and Lucy eats them. Sara can open every drawer and cupboard in this house…but she can’t turn the knob on the door that leads to the garage.
So I go to get the toy—whichever one we haven’t played with for awhile, all of them homemade, some version of a stick to which I have tied a long piece of twine or fishing line with pigeon feathers or an earplug or a catnip mouse attached to the end—and sometimes the choices are so interesting that I dawdle over them. I should poke holes in this one so they can smell the catnip better, I’ll think. Or, Who knew that they would be so captivated by my earplugs? This leads Sara to throw herself against the other side of the garage door and yell at me: “Get back in here! What are you doing out there!? GET THE TOY!”
She is a bold girl. I don’t know where she gets that from.
Lately I’ve been choosing the new favorite toy: a long piece of kitchen string tied to one of those round blue plastic rings that come off jugs of milk and water. It is not on a stick. I drag it into the spare room where there is lots of room to play, grab the cloth runner off a table and throw it on the floor (making much better use of it than when it just lies there, looking pretty) and proceed to conduct the game of Where Did It Go? I sit on the carpet and mess up the runner so it has dips and wrinkles, then drag the blue ring underneath it. “Where did it go?” I’ll say to my two attentive kitties. It’s then up to them to prowl, pounce, and chase the blue ring. Usually they take turns; somehow they have worked this out.
Yesterday however, since I had skipped formal playtime two days in a row, Sara was particularly excited about chasing the blue ring, and she did not give Lucy a turn. Wild-eyed and bushy-tailed, Sara gave the runner a good beating—taking out her frustration at not finding the blue ring underneath immediately. She backed up and took several running leaps at it, burying her nose in the fabric and tossing it around.
Every day, I am happy not to be that runner, for it often finds itself between the hind legs of my cats getting bitten and scratched to death. I feel like the runner sometimes though, as I’m sure we all do: it gets abused and violated, then carefully placed back on display as if nothing happened.
Or maybe that just happens to me.
Anyway, Sara—my feline Flying Wallenda—exhausted herself by soaring through the air when I dangled the ring up there, and chasing the blue ring when I whipped it around and around me as I sat cross-legged on the floor, round and round from one hand to the other. Having run in circles, hard, for a good couple of minutes, Sara finally got the blue ring in her mouth and flopped onto her back. Sara has allergies like I do, so at this point she was wheezing.
During all of this, Lucy...my black one…lay patiently under a chair, watching her sister have all the fun. With Sara finally out of commission, Lucy leveled me with her dark gaze. “You know, Mom, it’s not really fair when Sara gets to play and I don’t,” she meeped.
“I know, sweetie, but I can’t always control the situation,” I said, leaning over to spank her lightly on the butt, which she loves. I don’t where she gets that from.
“You have to be more assertive,” I continued, Lucy’s butt high in the air, me patting away. “If you just lie there, you’ll never get in the game.”
“I know,” she meeped. My shy girl.
At this point, with playtime over, the energy in the air started sparkling; it became almost tangible because we all knew what came next. We all know what always comes next.
“Meat Treat!” I said. “Who wants a Meat Treat?” I stood up with the blue ring toy in hand, put the runner back, and walked out of the room singing, “Meat Treat! Meat Treat! Whooooo…wants a Meat Treat?” My girls trotted behind me as I went to the fridge and pulled out the turkey lunchmeat. Sara immediately started crying as if she was finally meeting her biological mother—so thankful, so moved, a once in a lifetime event—and I put her Meat Treat on the floor. I took another wad of turkey and went to find Lucy, who often runs for cover during snack time because she has multiple personalities and one of them fears the Meat Treat. I tracked her down under my bed and pushed the turkey towards her on a magazine. “Here, Black One. Eat your meat treat.”
“Okay Mom,” Lucy meeped, inching towards the turkey. “I love you.”
All was forgiven in my household: the days of no playtime, the inequitable playtime of that morning, the frightening offer of meat. If it was only this easy to communicate with my own family members, or to win over my students. If it only took a spanking and a meat treat, what a life it would be.