Apologies for the long time since my last post. I’ve been busy getting the house ready for my long absence. I’ve had a few adventures, too, but no time yet to write them up and share with you. So here’s an older piece that I hope you find amusing. It happened this winter while I was writing my Master’s thesis at USF St. Petersburg. Enjoy!
“Salvador is a dirty bastard”
(Originally published 18 January 2012 at http://afairban.blog.usf.edu)
That’s a fair statement, partly because it’s factually correct (he is a bastard and, for the moment, filthy and wet). I’m pretty sure he feels the same way about me, too. Just consider that he recently urinated on my clothes and sheets. Who does that? A dirty bastard, that’s who. Sal.
Today was supposed to be a productive day of writing. It started like most other days: I made coffee and read the newspaper over breakfast. Before going to my desk to work, I decided to wrap up a few chores around the yard. I pruned my grandparents’ rose bushes (always a pleasant distraction), but when I returned with some cuttings to put in a vase, I found the front door slightly ajar—just wide enough for a curious, misbehaving cat to have snuck out. “That bastard!” I cursed as I moved quickly to look inside. Sal’s much kinder sister, Xanibel, sauntered gently across the living room, but Sal was nowhere to be found.
I put down the flowers and went back outside. After scanning the yard, I went to the vacant house next door, a well known hangout for strays. There he was, relaxing in the crawl space. He meowed as if to say, “leave me alone” and just stared with those crazy yellow eyes. I tried to coax him with food to no avail. He just moved further under the filthy house. I went back inside and doused one of his toys with catnip, even spritzed some on myself like cologne, and returned to his new favorite den. At first I didn’t see him, but then the glint from his eyes burned orange in the shadows.
Last time Sal got out was also a Wednesday. I remember this because I had to let him fend for himself while I went to a weekly study group. Today I was meant to go to the same meeting, but recent sightings of a big red-shouldered hawk in the yard had me worried that this erstwhile house cat might make easy prey. My roommate was none to pleased when she came home last time and found one of her cats crouched on the outside of a window sill, looking in and meowing plaintively. She definitely would not forgive me if this time he became a meal.
By now, a good hour had passed since the time I intended to start writing. I had another couple of hours before I needed to leave, so I left the door open to the workshop (home to Sal’s litter box, food and water) in case he cared to return. I sat down at my desk and was pleasantly surprised at how easily I made the transition to writing. A good thing, since my first thesis draft is due in a few weeks. (In fact, I should be writing that now instead of this blog.)
I made some progress before I started to hear what sounded like a baby crying across the street. I blocked it out until its persistence gave me pause. I’d woken up to that noise before in the dead of night and found it to be strays yowling as they, um, flirted. “Bastard” is not what I called him next when I looked out the window to see Sal courting another feline in the neighbor’s driveway.
A third cat was watching from a distance, perhaps hoping for a menage a trois? I’m not a cat person, but they do strike me as devious. It occurred to me that I was wearing eau d’catnip as I approached the scene, so I braced myself for chaos. I chased off the first suitor, for which I’m sure Sal cursed me as he trotted towards the other cat. Instead of courting, he took out his frustrations on the poor thing. Fur flew as they tussled in the bushes. Sal ran off before I could grab him from the melee. The other cat licked his wounds, gave me a dirty look and then scampered off. I went back inside to reconsider my strategy. I also sent an email to my study group that began with, “This is going to sound ridiculous, but…”
I wouldn’t be surprised if some of my neighbors think I’m nuts. If any of them saw me sneaking up on this cat in the street, poised to cast my bait net, I have no doubt they will be telling their kids to stay far away from me. Sal saw me coming and rightly decided that he should retreat to the crawl space of the vacant house. I made a few practice casts and was reminded that I haven’t been fishing in a while. The net only opened halfway. I might have had better luck stunning Sal with the weighted net than actually trapping him under its skirt, but I didn’t think my roommate would approve.
As I abandoned the cast net approach, the grey sky let loose a few damp drops. Maybe rain would convince him to come home? Nope. He just slinked back under his new favorite hangout. I texted my roommate to apprise her of the situation. She wrote back, asking me to let her know if he didn’t return by 4pm. I abandoned hope of joining my study group, drank a beer and went back to my desk, leaving the workshop door open with diminished optimism.
I set the kitchen timer for an hour and set myself back to writing. Xanibel kept me company, brushing against my shins and sitting in my lap as I typed. She’s a sympathetic cat and predictable, unlike her brother who cares only about himself and attacks at random.
The rain came down hard, and I cranked out a few pages to the rhythm of heavy drops pounding on the metal awnings above my windows. The timer went off at 3:30, I checked the workshop: no Sal. I reset the timer for 30 minutes more and went back to work. The rain let up. I made a cup of tea and checked the workshop again. Still no Sal.
I read through my day’s work quietly. Not as much done as I had hoped, but good progress nonetheless. Thoughts of Sal crept into my head and I contemplated writing this blog. Not long after that, I heard his unmistakeable meowing. I cracked open the back door and saw a filthy, wet cat sitting just inside the workshop staring back at me. He seemed torn, contemplating whether to run away or come back inside.
Xanibel was restless. I grabbed her just as she tried to run towards him. (Just what I need: both cats on the loose.) Holding Xan in one arm and the door in the other, I kicked the rug to prop open the door as calmly as I could. I walked through the living room and kitchen without looking back, Xan still in my arms. I put her down in the laundry room, where another door led to the workshop. Hoping for the best, I cracked it open and slid into the empty workshop. I closed the slider, portal to the outside world, and went back into the house through the first door.
Had Sal bolted or gone inside while I circumnavigated the house? As soon as I closed the door I knew the answer. Xan let out a growl full of contempt, articulating her disapproval as best she could. Sal, the dirty bastard, lay on the wood floor grooming himself unapologetically.
Sal, you are a dirty bastard. And lucky, too.
P.S. — I was reminded of this episode recently when Sal got out again. He kept me up all night until I tricked him into coming back inside for an early breakfast. Sal and Xan are moving out soon, along with my wonderful roommate, Laura. Despite his antics (and because of others more endearing, especially Xan’s), I will miss them all very much.