"I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand." - Chinese proverb

Saturday, November 24, 2012


My cats are bad.  I love them, but they are incapable of good behavior.  Good behavior consists, among other things, of letting me sleep.  Yeah, I know, that's laughable -- like ANY cat will let you sleep when they want something (or nothing, for that matter).  But in my case, with these particular two, I am not allowed to sleep AT ALL no matter WHAT TIME OF DAY OR NIGHT.  Buddy (he of the golden coat) will leap onto my chest, abdomen or legs and then spring off again, quickly, as if I were a human trampoline.  He weighs 16 pounds and something like that landing on you when you're catching some zzzz's is unpleasant and startling, at best.  Molly, my black-and-white daughter, is way worse.  She catches me nodding off and she will sneak up onto my bedside table and start knocking stuff off, including, at times, a full but opened bottle of spring water, pills, hand lotion, Kleenex boxes, and my telephone.  (She is just now sitting insolently on the kitchen table across from me.  Not supposed to be up there.  Right.)
I wracked my brains thinking how I was going to work this one out.  I have had cats all my life, and I have never before had one who wasn't completely content to snuggle up in bed (even if occasionally it was on my head or face) for most of the night.  In fact back in the days when it was safe to let your cats out day and night without worrying about predators, I kept my bedroom window slightly cracked (as it opened onto a low portion of the roof and they could just come in and out whenever), and TWICE I woke up in the morning with a totally unfamiliar cat nestled in my bed.  One was a Siamese that I knew lived somewhere nearby as I'd seen him before, and one was a small black cat with half a tail.  (This scared me since I HAD a small black cat and without my glasses I thought it was her.)  Now, these cats were conked out WITH A STRANGER and apparently very content.  What I'm trying to say is, what the hell kind of furry little demons possessed me here that I had to live my life as sleep-deprived as the mother of a newborn?  Do they not know when they've got it good?? 

Well, I finally figured it out. See, I have a cellar.  It is not a heated cellar, but it is chock-full of little alcoves and shelves and cubbyholes, all perfectly primed to make cozy sleeping places for a cat.  My whole life long (so far) I have watched my father construct little outdoor houses for stray and/or feral cats who might be roaming through the neighborhood.  He would insulate and waterproof them and locate them out of the wind, so I knew, pretty much, what to do and how to do it.  Really, the place was luxurious when I got through, and -- I hang a thermometer there -- has never dipped below 40 degrees in the coldest of winters.  (In fact a couple of years ago, during a record-breaking snowy winter, an opossum lived down there with them for about three months.  Really.  Read about that interesting saga right here: "The Cellar Dweller" or, "Where is Granny Clampett When You Need Her?"
Cozy Place #1 is a pile of old porch cushions on an old table.   (Like "The Princess and the Pea.")  The possum lived in a loosely-folded tarpaulin behind this table.
Cozy Place #2 is a wooden box underneath the workbench next to my power sander.
Cozy Place #3 is a wicker basket, one for each, lined with old towels.

Cozy Place #4 is a chair I found in the dump with old bathmats on it.  There are more Cozy Places.

I admit I am not entirely appreciative of this plan when it's 11 o'clock at night, I'm in my pajamas and ready to turn over and conk off but there is still the issue of Putting The Cats In The Cellar.  Directly under my bedroom and kitchen is the "warm" (+/-) cellar where my washer and dryer and furnace etcetera are.  A door from there opens to the outer cellar.  That's the cats' room.  (I cannot keep them in the inner cellar as they would simply come up to the top of the stairs where there is a real door and raise holy hell with me.  It would be of no use.)

Molly goes down by herself, but Buddy (16 pounds, remember?) makes me carry him and makes himself a dead weight.  Once in awhile he will jump out of my arms at the foot of the stairs and run and hide somewhere in the "warm" cellar.   The only way to get Buddy through that door into the other cellar, believe it or not, is to chase him with an old crutch.  I don't know why he is afraid of it (or of anything, for that matter, since he's never had a hand raised to him) but he is deathly terrified of that crutch.  Thank goodness.  Sometimes I just rush at him (or where I guess his general whereabouts to be) and I holler "MAMA'S GONNA GET THE CRUTCH!!  GETTING THE CRUTCH RIGHT NOW!!!" and he will behave.  Sometimes.  Again, however, all I really want to do is sleep at this point.

So they're in their room, but there's still the issue of that door between the cellars.  Keeping it shut is not enough, because one of them, I suspect Buddy because he has the weight, apparently throws its body against the closed door repeatedly.  Then there's additional scratching alternating with the door-smashing.  Whichever one is doing it, the point is I can't sleep through it and THEY KNOW.  They're not sleeping either but what do they care, they've caught cat-naps all day and are raring to go.

After trying various remedies, I finally came up with something that seems to work. There was already a screw-and-eye closure at the top; I screwed one into the bottom too.  Originally I had fastened a bungee cord through one of the connections, and I pulled on that cord to make the door as tightly shut as possible after I hooked it, hooking the other end of the bungee cord onto the leg of an old metal chair.  They pounded on this, so I realized I had to PUSH the door tightly closed, not PULL it.  I push a cement block up against it from my side so that really stabilizes it.  (Because if it's possible to make excessive noise with a door that's opened one-tenth of an inch, they know how.)
Cement block; note old crutch leaning against wall to the right.
Since they still managed to scratch, I stretched an old rag rug around the bottom half of the door on their side and I securely fastened it there with a staple gun.  This way I don't hear the scratching - it's muffled.  Because believe me, they work at this door all night long even more skillfully than those guys who actually did escape from Alcatraz.
Rag rug.  Not shredded yet.  Thanks, Christmas Tree Shops.
Success!  I felt the wondrous joy of an uninterrupted night's sleep.  Almost.  Because, don't you know, I worried about those damned cats.  Who was sleeping where?  Were there enough blankets in their baskets and boxes?  What if some chemical thing, paint thinner or something, got knocked off the shelf and tipped over and spilled...would they perish from the fumes?  Did they feel that I was abandoning them?  Were there animals outside, deer or foxes (both seen in this yard) peering in on them through the little ground level windows, taunting them perhaps?  And worst of all, especially on a very windy night, was the old door to the outside holding shut??  It's not a bulkhead or overhead door, see, it's just a regular garden variety one with a doorknob and, of course, a lock that I double-check every night.  After I turn the lock I lean on the door to make sure it's fastened all the way and won't blow open.  It's peace of mind for me; little enough, but some.

Then one night a couple of weeks ago when I leaned on the door it unexpectedly flung open and I, in turn, was almost flung out into the backyard in my nightgown (beside the point but I'm including it).  This cannot be, I thought.  I pulled it shut and locked it again, and leaned on it -- and vrooom, again it flings open, and "Shit," I said.   For the lock to just give up the ghost with no warning.  But it had; now what?  I had to get the door to stay shut.  It's not like I could drag a bureau (if there happened to be a bureau in the cellar, which there did not, though there is almost everything else down there) and push it up against the door, because the door doesn't open inward, it opens OUT.  So out I go, looking around for heavy stuff out in the back yard.  

Believe it or not there were slim pickins'.  I ended up pulling an Adirondack chair out of the screen porch, hauling (with no small effort) another one of those cement blocks over and dumping it on the seat of the chair, and leaning the weed whacker against it.  I figured I'd go back down through the inside and finagle something else with another bungee cord just to be on the safe side.

It had started raining, not a heavy rain, but enough to feel like cold spit on my head and make the yard slithery under my bare feet.  So I ran around the side of the house and went to let myself in the front door.  And could not believe it -- I had already locked that door from the inside.  "Isn't this a fine frigging how-do-you-do," I snarled murmured.  It's important to note here that there's a hook-and-eye lock here, too.

I felt sure that something thin would fit in between the storm door and the screw hook so I could lift it open.  Nope.  NOTHING.  Thin twig, no.  Old envelope from the stack of recycling on my front porch, no.  Miserably, I tried yanking the thing open.  I could not have cared less that this meant a new screw hook lock.  But nope.  I have strong arms, too, if I do say so.  But I could not get in my own front door (and was too pissed to acknowledge that this should have made me feel secure).  Back around to the back yard it was, where I morosely dismantled my clever and very heavy improvisation and let myself back into the cellar.  The two of them were sitting there staring at me.  I think they were snickering.  Or they would have been if possible.  I dragged myself upstairs, undid the screw hook on my front door and clumped back down to the cellar.  I caught them both watching the door to see what was going on but as soon as I came in they both started getting washed up (it is a dirty job sleeping for hours on the back of the couch and/or bed).  Like the Pink Panther I slithered back outside and started dragging things to the door; fortunately it was just that spitty little rain still, nothing heavy, but the motion detector light had snapped on and moths were flitting a little too close to my ears, nose and mouth.  I have kind of a phobia about moths.

Finally, when I was again fairly satisfied that the door was blocked with enough heavy stuff to withstand tornadic winds and not blow open, I walked back up the hill on the side of the house and let myself in the front door.  And locked it behind me.  And with my heart pounding, went to bed.  It seems that all the reckless and unnecessary activity had given me restless leg syndrome or something of the sort because I flailed around all night and caught myself turning from front to back to front like somebody flipping a pancake on a hot griddle.  They don't care, I thought.  They do not care what I go through, they have NO empathy.  They only want to eat and play and squabble with each other, and wake me up incessantly and preen.  I should throw them out to the coyotes once and for all.  Little bastards!

I did finally doze off and when I went down the next morning to let them up, I felt a little better about the whole affair.  Or more resigned (I could be confusing that with better).  Anyway there they were, the two of them, big as life.  Molly took her designated reconnaissance walk behind the washing machine, under the window and through an aisle of boxes to get to the stairs (I don't know what she looks for on the way).  Buddy ran halfway up, then did his customary about face so the two of us could head-butt each other twice and then I could loudly kiss his forehead.  I'm too fuzzy headed to recall when all that disgusting behavior began but it's mandatory now. 

My father was kind enough to buy a brand new lock later that day and stand out in the heat and install it.  Oh, and about Jamaica.  I have been to the islands, but not to Jamaica, not yet.  Having grown up in a house full of music and a father who would play guitar and sing "Jamaica Farewell" to me as a lullabye, not to mention the whole ganja-Rasta thing (irie, mon), it's an island I've always wanted to visit.  It's looming there as a dream: Montego Bay, Dunn River Falls, the coffee plantations, the Reggae...please, let it happen.  In winter.  I DESERVE IT.  I don't care how long the plane ride is or how many connections and layovers because I can spend the time writing long essays about my AWFUL CATS AND THE THINGS THEY MAKE ME DO.  Late at night.  With screw hooks, cement blocks and yard furniture.  (In spitty rain.)

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