Upon returning from Bali, we were welcomed home by a chorus of kitties wondering “where in the hell have you been?” Bess-Bess, the Cow-Pattern, rolls belly up atop my feet and yells at me with a long, slow, wide-cheek, missing-feng exposed “Mmmoooooooooowwwwwwwwoooooooooooooooooooowww!” I rub her between her two front legs, careful not to touch the belly as I have read kitties dislike belly rubs. She begins purring so hard than she snorts snot out of her nose.
“Gross, Bess.” I say. She flips back to her four feet and follows me up the stairs.
We’ve moved out of our first land apartment to the one on the second floor. Now, we are house sitting/living in some sailing friends’ apartment for free while they return to Denmark to deliver a baby and spend time with family. Their generosity is the type that can’t easily be repaid.
Katherine “Kitty” Hepburn, also known as the Mews, elects to climb a mysterious path I can never quite track until she appears on the red-tiled roof outside the door. The food we left in dishes for them, refilled by other kindly sailors, has run dry. Their scowls let me know what exactly they would like my first focus to be. They swirl a frenzy of fur and hope around my ankles as I unlock the door and rustle the bag of cat food to pour them a new dish. Both cats bump heads and nose in. Kitty nibbles gracefully at her lady-like portion; Bess goes at her bowl with a voracious appetite, kicking spare nibs out the side with abandon.
Once we unpack our bags, we return to the patio to visit our feline friends and discover Kitty has a nasty gash on her belly. It isn't bleeding, but you can see muscle through a thick layer of belly fat and fur. “What happened, Kitty!?” Andrew asks, bending closer to inspect. Kitty, bows her head looks at him through her eyebrows and limps away more stiffly than her usual languid gate. “Oooh, come here, let me see that.” She back pedals away.
Kitty’s wound weighs heavily on Andrew’s mind. For three days, he carries on as usual, donning the outfit he has selected to sacrifice to the sea gods of fiberglass dust and leaving the trio of wife, cat, and cow-cat to fend for ourselves. Yet, he returns each night to fret about Kitty’s health.
On the fourth morning, I roll over in bed to find Andrew is not by my side. Dawn is just cracking through the window in our room, and the light is still blue-grey in the kitchen. I hear, “What do you think? That looks cozy, doesn’t it? What if I put a little rug in there? Come on, please?” I stretch and scrabble through blankets and my pyramid of pillows to see what is going on.
In the living room, I find Andrew holding out our orange laundry bag toward Kitty.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“We have to go to the vet. That gash is just awful and it’s not healing. It's going to get infected.” He explains.
Bess, stands in the doorway watching the scene unfold. She refuses to draw any nearer. Kitty, boldly confident, sits in the middle of the floor selecting various untoward body parts to lick.
“The vet isn’t open yet for hours.” I tell Andrew. “And what? You want to put her in that bag?”
“Yeah, why not?” He holds the bag up to his face. “She can see through it, and it’s easy to breathe!" I’m sure this is true. These bags are fantastic for keeping old laundry and scuba gear. Built specifically to allow air flow and avoid mildew, it has thousands of holes perforated between a strong plastic web. I don’t know how he’s ever going to get her in there, but I turn to making coffee instead. I’m not going to get involved.
Andrew arranges the orange bag in the middle of the room, places a soft floor rug in the bottom, and scrunches everything into a flat oval until it looks like a perfect cat-nest. Then, he walks away, ignoring it, playing the first rule we all know about cats.
Curiosity will kill the cat.
Bess-Bess makes a wide circle around ground zero. She doesn’t want any part of this, but curiosity kills all cats. For a while, Kitty continues to ignore the bag. She continues licking her toes, but I can see her shooting fleeting glances toward the bag. Around eight-thirty a.m., she begins circling it from multiple directions, edging closer than darting away. Eight forty-five, she gets close enough to paw the folds of the scrunched up orange bag. Eight fifty-five, she has two front paws on the rug, and by nine-o’clock, she's in.
“She’s in!" Andrew exclaims, jumping from his chair to pull the bag over the cat. Like a ballerina leaps from her trap.
“Damn it!” Andrew says.
“You can’t scare her like that!" I say.
“She’s not scared. She knows I want her to be in there, so she has to get out.” Andrew chases her around the room and tries to pet her into submission. She loves his caresses, but when he picks her up to put her in the bag, she hops away again. Andrew is getting impatient; He knows Sonrisa will get jealous if he is too late to the yard.
He grabs the cat, puts her atop the rug and holds her in place with his left hand. He gives her two swift pets on the head to calm her, then pulls the string and tightens the mouth of the bag closed. I can see Kitty’s green eyes go wide through the checkered pattern in the bag. She looks out, annoyed with this utter loss of dignity. Bess watches from the “Temple of the Clean Laundry,” just grateful that she isn’t the one in the bag.
Andrew hoists Kitty down the stairs and into the car. I peek in through the driver side window to see the bag squirming in the seat. I can hear all manner of feline begging and pleading. Kitty sounds like she thinks Andrew is about to put her in the trunk and throw her body in the desert...err, jungle. Andrew pleads with her to understand.
“Don’t you know me by now? I’m just trying to help.”
“Good luck!” I wave them off clicking my shutter as they go. Yep, I'm that jerk who just stands by taking pictures. I head off to yoga, and leave them to their task. When I next check in via text, Andrew is at the yard, Kitty has been released into the wild, leaving off with two long growls and a hiss.
“She’ll get over it,” I tell him.
Over the next few days, we scramble morning and night to try to apply the antibiotic cream on the wound as prescribed. “Kitty-kitty! Kitty-kitty!” I hear Andrew on the patio shaking the food bag in the hopes that food will call her near. Instead, Bess-Bess hops from her perch on the Green BMW and waddles her lopping belly up the stairs. Andrew bends down to pet her, “Okay, Bess, you can have more food, too.” He pours a cup. We keep watch out the window. Eventually, Kitty returns for us to apply her salve, but she refuses to look either of us in the eye.
That’s when someone starts leaving us presents and peeing in my shoes. At first, I think it’s the kitties nemesis: Evil Grey-Fluffy who skulks around and starts “things.”
One morning, its an uneaten chicken thigh.
The next morning, a fish.
The next morning…
I move my shoes and the food cups just inside the door.
Then, one day, I’m writing at my station when Bess starts “Mowing" at the door. (I think “Me-ow” must be the English language version because these Malaysian cats distinctly do not MEEEyow. They say “mow.”) I open up, and Bess invites herself in. I return to my desk and listen to Bess chomp-chomp-chomp and lap at her water. I should have noticed she’d gotten quiet, but I was in the “zone” and lost track of her until I hear her scratch at my shoes. The sound issues warning to me, and I turn around at my writing desk.
“BESS!" I say, “NO!” She is squatting and peeing directly atop my shoes! I clap at her and run to the doorway, but she does not stop. She continues peeing! I grab her by the scruff, and she hunkers down. “Bad kitty! You are a bad kitty! Why are you peeing on my shoes?” I give her a tug with the intent to pull her to her feet then shuffle her out the door, but she doesn’t move. Despite being at most a ten pound cat, she feels rooted in place like a one ton lead weight. “BESS!” I drag her across the floor stringing pee from my shoes out to the patio.
“Oh, Bess, that is disgusting!!!" She looks me in the eye, and I close the door on her. “Ahhh, nasty!" I complain as I break out the Clorox and wipe up her mess. I soak my shoes in the shower. The smell almost kills me.
I text Andrew; “Bess is out of the inner circle.”
I peek out to investigate and sure enough, she is squatting on a bag of soil and newspapers kept on a shelf with our hostess’s “gardening supplies.” I can't believe this! “BESS!" She looks up at me but continues doing her business. I move to shoo her away and clean up another mess, but notice...blood.
Now, I feel guilty. I run to Master Google and quickly find that when cats start peeing all over, it's often because they are trying to tell you they have a UTI infection. “Oh, Bess.”
I text Andrew: “I think Bess wants to be probed with the vet’s thermometer, too.”
Later that afternoon, when I emerge from the apartment to make a trip to the grocery store, Bess slinks out from under the car and lays down behind my car. She won't let me go. She rolls belly up, “mows,” then lays one paw atop my foot. “Aw, are you apologizing? It's okay.” She sits between my feet, but doesn’t look up at me.
I bend down to give her some pets. “Now, you have to go in the big orange bag, too! Yes.... Big orange bag for you!”