With the keel reattached, Andrew’s spirit is lightened immensely. Though he still has a wall of yellow sticky notes each with a job left to complete, he knows all of those jobs are well within the range of skill and supply available here. Once you’ve done the thing no one said you could do, everything around you looks simple. So, he turns a cheerful eye from videos about keel bolts to watching the saga of a man from Canada who speaks like Kermit the Frog. This man bought a boat he believed to be “almost ready to sail” only to find himself tearing it apart layer by layer and rebuilding it from the ground up. Kermit is a wealth of information about the finer techniques of fiberglass layup, and Andrew now has his sights set on repairing a handful of fiberglass projects left to go.
“Can you get worms from a cat?” I ask. Andrew is sitting on the couch, his latest Kermit video playing for the viewing pleasure of both he and the Mews who is snuggling in his lap.
“Yeah.” Andrew says, watching, petting, and making no effort to connect the real meaning of my question i.e. “can I get worms from that cat?”
He continues to pet the cat, her eyes half closed in a drugged stupor of love.
I am laying on the floor, on my stomach, atop a strategically stacked pile of pillows. I have my my own YouTube video playing – “Bob and Brad, The Two Most Famous Physical Therapists on the Internet” (or so they claim). I am attempting to extract enough physical therapy techniques to reconstruct my spine as I suffer through another round with my dodgy back.
“Maybe I should make a trip back to Indonesia to see Uh-Oh (my fire healer). He fixed me right up last time,” I suggest to Andrew.
“Yeah, fly to Singapore, then take a ferry?” He says.
The ferry. Seems a less than convenient method to reach a guy who has declared his curative methods are to remove ghosts from my spine. “…but it worked last time!” I say.
“Maybe schedule a time to talk with an orthopedic doctor while we do annual physicals in Penang, Malaysia?” Andrew suggests. This is a more sensible path and I decide that is what I shall do. I reduce my pillow pile by one pillow (leaving two more beneath my hips) and set my computer on the floor in front of my face to schedule flights and make appointments. In my shuffling, I disturb the cat who hops down from the couch and in the style of all cats everywhere walks past me, aligns her position just so, then stretches. She tips her forward shoulders down and back while her tail-end points right in my face.
“OH MY GOD! KITTY!” I am revolted, not only is she sticking her butt in my face, but I see…
“Andrew! There is a worm emerging from Kitty’s asshole as we speak!” If I could, I would clamor up from my position and scurry to the furthest reach of whatever corner I could find.
“There is not,” Andrew says, operating per his usual presumption I’m an overly anxious hypochondriac. (I am not a hypochondriac!) Andrew pauses his video, lest he miss a moment of Kermit’s fiberglass drama. Then, he tips his face toward the floor, peering at The Cat’s derriere… “There’s nothing th…” He stops mid-sentence, stands in silence to retrieve a paper towel from the kitchen and plucks a WORM away from it’s source.
The cat shoots daggers at me. In the slowest chase scene ever to occur, I roll off my pile of pillows, hoist myself on all fours, then to my knees, then one leg at a time, then to my hunched over standing position, and corral the cat toward the door.
“Oh, calm down. Cats get worms all the time.” Andrew tells me.
“She is a wild cat! She is not a domestic cat! Why would we think it’s a good idea to befriend a wild cat!? Did you know 40% of Americans have parasites in their brain because they have cats? I’ve gone my whole life without parasites!” The cat swerves to avoid me, looking over her shoulder as I widen my arms and try to chase her in the direction I want her to go.
Andrew, scrambles behind me, begging the cat not to be offended. “It’s okay, Kitty, we’ll get you a de-worming pill. It’s okay.”
I begin a panicked process of gathering every last bit of laundry I can find. Must. Wash. EVERYTHING! I’m in a Quasimodo-Frenzy of laundry gathering mode. I’m boiling a pot of hot water. I’m pouring in tea tree oil, bleach, hot water, baking soda, anything I can think of to save me from the scourge. Resigned to his cat-less fate, Andrew follows me around, helping to clear my life of any evidence of the wild cat.
“She was sleeping on my stomach the other day!” I say, my voice warbling in terror.
“In some places, worms are a weight loss method.” Andrew tells me. This seems hardly the kind of thing a husband should say to a hunch-backed wife who is on a tear about doing cat-laundry late into the evening. In response, I smack my forehead.
At first light, Andrew is off to solve his most pressing problem of the day: how to convince the wife to let the stray cat back in the house. He returns with not one, but two, de-worming pills.
“What’s the second one for?”
“Bess-Bess.” He says, as though this is obvious.
Bess-Bess is the cat who wears black and white spots just like a cow. For obvious reasons, we call her Bess-Bess. To date, she hasn’t really tried to join our party, instead, she “mows” at us from her perch atop the next-door neighbor’s BMW. “She and Kitty are friends, so if one has worms the other will, too.” Andrew explains.
He offers both cats a plate of pate with a de-worming pill crushed up in the mix. Bess-Bess, just now realizing that Andrew is offering European fare jumps off her car and devours the mix in a fury of licking and smacking of her tongue. Our stray cat, on the other hand, takes one lick of this porridge and makes a face. Her tail sways in the question mark style of cat disapproval, and she circles away requesting her usual Tuna flavored kibble mix.
“Kitty, eat!” Andrew says. He picks up Kitty’s furry body and hovers it over the pate. “Look! Bess ate all of hers.” Kitty wriggles from Andrew’s grasp, turns her nose up and scampers into the living room to jump up on the couch like she owns the place – because at this point, I’m sure she thinks she does.
Furthermore, Bess, instead of taking leave to head back out to the car inspects the territory and climbs aboard a kitchen chair. “No, Bess, out.” I say. She looks up at me with yellow eyes and lays her chin on her paws.
“Andrew! Now we have not one stray cat in our company, but two?” At least the new one will be shortly de-wormed. Things are absolutely progressing in a direction of which I do not approve. What exactly is the plan? How do you build relationships with these furry little creatures who want nothing but love and a little kibble, then sail off into the sunset? Best leave them alone.”
“They’ll have a few months worm free!” Andrew says, “I’ve made their lives better.” But I can see it in his eyes. He has zero intention of leaving them alone, and there is a sparkle of an idea forming.
The next week turns into a cat-wrestling match of epic proportions. My days are spent listening to “Kitty” mow at me through the window: “let me in! let me in!”
“I’ll let you in if you eat your worm pill.” I tell her, removing the plate of pate from the fridge and slipping it outside through a crack in the door. She looks at the plate, sniffs, then returns to the window sill.
Andrew buys more pills, and he begins trying to capture her and stuff it down her throat. Despite his best efforts, she coughs it back up and sends it spewing across the room, spinning on its axis across the slick tile floor. She bounds from his grasp.
“Kick her out!” I say, again from my perch face down on a pile of pillows.
“What if I hold her, and you slide the pill into her mouth?” Andrew asks. I agree to give it a shot. He lures her in, pries her mouth open, and I try to poke it to the back of her throat.
“HACK, SPEW, COUGH!” Out it comes; she escapes.
Behind the scene, Bess-Bess sneaks in and starts pecking at the bowl of kibble until we both forget to pay attention and lose sight of her.
“Where did Bess-Bess go?” I ask, calling her as I search the apartment over. “Bess? Bess! BESS!!!”
When I find her in the closet nestled among Sonrisa’s clean blankets in storage, I demand sanctions: “Kick. Them. Out!” I pluck her out of the blanket by hooking my thumbs beneath her forearms. All four legs dangle downward until I set her on the floor to exit on her own volition. She rolls sidelong, and plops to the floor. Looking up at me with yellow eyes, she offers her belly as consolation for the previously clean laundry now covered in cat fur.
Finally, one night, I can’t take it anymore. “Look, I’ll grab Kitty and hold her while you slather the pill with that weird slippery “squid flavored” jelly the vet gave you. Andrew prepares the jelly. I take a seat at a kitchen chair, and as she swoops a circle around my ankles, I scoop her up by the belly and cage her in my arms. I pet her, and scratch her chest until Andrew says, “okay, ready!” He strategically angles the pill vertically aligned with her throat.
She sees what is coming and starts to twist in my arms, but merciless and cold-hearted, I keep my grip. I cup her chin in my palm. “It’s for the best, Kitty. You’ll see. You’ll feel better tomorrow morning, your tummy won’t hurt.” Andrew slips the pill into her mouth and I clamp my hand down on chin and nose. Her green eyes grow wide, but unlike Andrew whose cat-loving heart turns to mush when they look at him like that, I hold tight. She has no choice but to swallow rather than yack it up. Andrew rubs her neck “encouragement to get the pill Southward.”
“I think it’s down!” He says.
“VICTORY!” I say.
“You’d better let her go, she has murder in her eyes.”
She springs from my grasp, runs to the furthest reach of the corner behind the dinner table, and glares at me. I am the betrayer. But, I don’t care. It’s for her own good, dang it. And mine, too.
“Steel Sapphire has a boat kitty,” Andrew says.
What did I tell you? I knew he had “ideas.” Does Kitty realize what she’s worming her way into?
P.S. I remain unconvinced of the wisdom of this idea. And, you know nothing happens until you convince The Wife.