Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Nurse Who Kept The Baby

My kitten, Leo, gallops across my desk, right underneath my nose: “You’re lucky you didn’t hit my tea, sister.”  I quickly correct my mistake: “Mister I mean.”  Later I’m holding him under my chin, breathing his fur; he always smells like dust.  I rock back and forth in front of the window and kissy-kiss his head.   “You’re such a good girl,” I murmur. “Boy I mean.”

The real girls in my house—me, Sara, and Lucy—are still getting used to this rocket engine of a boy-cat who seems to be everywhere all the time.  We weren’t expecting him nine months ago when he was born in the neighbor’s shed and arrived at our house three inches long, dirty, blind and without a diaper to his name.  Sometimes we still don’t expect him.

He stalks around like a bulldog, this one, but when his eyes are weary, all the world’s ills are my fault, and he looks to me to cure them.  When he was still tiny, he refused to give up his bottle no matter what else I offered—the best of gruels.  He had no reason to switch, and what was I going to do about it?  Yet, the kitten formula didn’t keep his belly full, and one night I had to do something before he turned himself inside out trying to suck a bone out of the empty bottle.  I drove to the Animal Hospital and bought more kitten formula, even though to me, this was a step backwards on our milestones.

That was the night I bought puppy formula by mistake, and nothing has been the same around here since.  In fact, I think there’s something funny about that Animal Hospital, because not only do they say that there’s no harm in giving puppy formula to a kitten (I beg to differ), they have on display in the lobby canned food made explicitly for cats and dogs.  It says that right on the label: Canine/Feline.  It’s for “the nutritional support of recovering pets”, which—I know now—means that any sick, skinny, or baby pet in your house will be unable to resist eating this food, and will grow to the size of an elephant.

Now at nine months, Leo follows me around and likes to play fetch.  He guards me from his older sisters, who were obviously here first, and that’s created some tension.  We take it one day at a time.

I call Leo Tiny One.  I call him my boy, when I’m not calling him my girl.  

It’s been raining all day, a nice spring drench.  I’ve had the windows and doors open since this morning, enjoying the pitter-patter, but the stinging aroma of cat urine has finally filled up my senses.  I feel like I did when I toured the San Diego zoo with my niece and we passed through the big cat enclosure: practically overcome.  I’ve always known that the stray cats use my decorative graveled-covered yard for their litter box; I’ve been cleaning up after them for years.  It’s just this past year—these last nine months in fact, since the day I plucked one of their own from somebody’s nipple—they come around more often.  They spray my front door, like that’s ever helped anything.  I’ve given up washing it.  I noticed somebody sprayed my poker table out in the garage, too.  I’d like to know how that happened.

But how can I blame these cats when I hold Tiny up to the windows, taunting them…the nurse who kept the baby.

I close the doors and windows, and turn to real chores, not just thinking.  Guests are coming and I need to unclog the sink in the bathroom.  I get the Drano and read that I’m supposed to pour 1/8th of the bottle down the sink from this non-see-through bottle.  How am I supposed to know what 1/8th of this bottle is?  How am I supposed to know what 1/4th of a bottle is for a tougher clog? How do you define “tougher”? I am totally stressed by the time I have poured some amount from the bottle down the sink, turned the fan on, and closed the door behind me.  I’ll go back in thirty minutes because that’s the maximum wait, and maximum is always best.

I sit down at my desk to work, and reach over to ruffle Lucy’s thick black fur coat.  She is our Elizabeth Taylor, now in full lounge on her chair, next to my chair.  “Mother, you undignified me when you pet me that way just now,” Lucy meeps to me.  “I’m sorry, Black One,” I meep back, and I am.  I’m ashamed of my aggressively friendly pet.  I slip Lucy a dainty bite of catnip treat, though she is not supposed to have many of these.  

Leo is curled in a ball under the lamp on my desk; Sara is curled next to me in Leo’s bed.  She has lost weight since he joined our family, and I bear the guilt of this too.  She used to eat more and have more muscle, but she’s thinner now, and uneasy.  We’ve had long talks about how the oldest sister has certain responsibilities and should not attack the baby.  I’ve tried to convince her that this is all normal, but she’s not having it. 

So, we are all eating the Canine/Feline canned food for the nutritional support of recovering pets, because—as a matter of fact—we are all recovering in this house.  


I end my day by folding a blanket that I had tossed over a chair to air out.  I hold it to my nose and it still smells musty.  I’ve been wondering what to do with this blanket ever since I got it.  It’s a quilt actually, made out of patches cut up from my grandpa’s overcoats when he died, with scrap material on the other side.  I want to tell the story of how this quilt came to me, but it’s too good for tonight.  It’s just that my baby Leo is named after this grandpa, who I loved specially for enduring my grandma, just like I do my baby, for making it this far with me.