Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Why do these things always seem to happen late at night?
There we were, Jonathan and I, trying to rush through a few things before we were able to go to sleep. Battie, our wonderful little adopted cat from the shelter down the street, started to meow. It was a strange sort of meow, not sounding like her typical plaintive can I please have some breakfast in the morning or help! I am trapped again in the basement meow we jump to respond to because otherwise she is going to get serious.
It sounded a bit, as Jonathan put it, like she was muffled.
Or, a bit like she had something in her mouth. As I was already in bed, I felt justified..ahem...asking Jonathan to go see where she was. Before he had a chance, she arrived in the doorway between our bedroom and the kids' playroom. All three kids' bedrooms open into this playroom.
And...there was a tail sticking out of Battie's mouth, flicking back and forth.
And I swear, she had a look about her that I recognized. When I looked deeply into her eyes, she seemed to be saying Holy gizzards! Help me! There is a mouse in my mouth!!!
I recognized this expression, because I think I saw it in Julia's eyes from way across the lacrosse field, earlier in the day. During her lacrosse game she was passed the ball and she happened to be standing 5 feet in front of the goal, and her coach and team started shouting Shoot! Then began a full minute, or maybe ten, of her running, stopping, considering, weaving, stopping, thinking, hesitating, and eventually throwing and getting her first ever lacrosse goal. It was a great moment. And so truly Julia in its process.
But in that first instant of looking at her lacrosse stick and seeing that unfortunately she had caught the ball when it headed toward her stick? Her expression looked a lot like Battie's.
Back to Battie. I think I screamed. I have recently buried all sorts of beheaded creatures and also just-heads of creatures due to backyard predators. I set free the mice from under the kitchen sink into the woods. I deal with the squirrels and groundhogs and chipmunks and moles that live in our garden shed from time to time, running across my bare hands as I reach without looking into bins. These things never seem to happen when Jonathan is home, so I have learned to be okay with it. I am not squeamish. With the right amount of squinting my eyes so that I can see enough, but not too much, I can handle it.
But this was a bit more than I was ready to handle at bedtime. A mouse. In our cat's mouth. Alive, for now. But on the brink of a potentially gory death. In the room that all three sleeping children were just off of.
I must pause in the retelling of this event to tell you that I am not one to write about my cat. I am not even a cat person, never having had one until Battie. But I do have to say that the serious, um, emotional/odd/neurotic behavior of this feline, gotten for our youngest who just really wanted a pet that he could carry around and not have to worry about eating his clay creations (yes, I am talking to you, Labradors) has won me over, even if it is mostly in a this cat's behavior intrigues the psychologist in me kind of way.
She and I developed an understanding one morning a few months ago. Apparently her time spent homeless and on her own in the world had resulted in a feisty girl of the streets attitude...and a serious case of dermatitis. Several trips to the vet later and a pretty ugly bald spot and wound on her back that would not heal due to her compulsive licking behavior (I mentioned the neuroses), we were struggling to get the wound to heal so we could...look at her again without wincing and yes, being a bit disgusted.
Undersized street cats also, we learned from Battie, have a hatred of the cone of shame that the vet had put around her neck to keep her from being able to reach the spot. Her short stature made it catch on the floor as she walked and made it impossible for her to reach her food and water. It was really pretty pathetic. She retaliated by lying motionless and not eating or drinking for days, until I removed it and she would hop up, eat and drink and then bolt and hide, whereupon, before I could find her, she would lick and destroy any healing her skin had achieved. Determined to craft my way out of another pricey trip to the vet for this free cat, I found salvation in the bottom of my fabric scrap bin. And crafted her this out of Julia's faded and too small bathing suit top.
We had some, um, words. Blood, mine, might of been lost. Tears, mine too, might have been shed. But I got her into the svelte and fashionable outfit. Her outfit said I am an pretty pink butterfly, but her stance said I hate you. In no time at all, she had been able to move about the house and her skin healed and her fur returned.
So we have history, she and I. I mean really. I sewed for her. It's good, right?
Miss Battie, named for our favorite member of the Penderwick family, despite her hours holding vigil in the kitchen, head cocked to one side, listening to the scratching that is often coming from behind the bottom cabinets and vents of the heating system, seems to have no idea what a respectable cat does if in fact she is unfortunate enough to catch the source of the sound. I love her all the more for her lack of whatever gene it is that guides her toward killing the mouse, despite her innate drive to try. But I do wish that once in this predicament, she would sit still, let me walk toward her, pick her up and carry her outside whereupon, like a Pez dispenser, she would open her mouth, and drop the mouse to be off on its way to find other house outcasts. I think they have a camp in the woods by the river. And then we could high five over saving life and ridding our home of rodents and head happily off to bed.
This is, of course, not what she did. Instead, she bolted once Jonathan made a move toward her and ran into Elliott's room and jumped up on his bed, sitting next to his head. Oral tail went flick flick. Jonathan whisper-screamed No! Not Elliott's room! And I hopped out of bed and ran for the kitchen for something to catch the mouse, or maybe the cat, with. Returning with the only clean large dish I could find (it had been a long and tiring day in the garden, folks), a large saucepan, I found Jonathan in a bit of a stand off with Battie, who was now crouched in Nicholas' doorway, mouse tail still twitching. And more of the mouse's body exposed, perhaps it was a slippery one, because she was gently holding on to it about the ears now. Jonathan took a step toward her, not looking like he actually wanted to get her really, and she bolted into Nicholas' room and under his bed. At which point I started giggling.
There ensued shenanigans that can only be explained by our exhaustion, efforts to be quiet, and what turns out to be a pretty intense fear on Jonathan's part of small furry creatures crawling across one's bare feet. Battie, now running circles in and out of the kids' bedrooms, occasionally spitting out the mouse and batting it a bit with her paw, Jonathan actually tossing the large saucepan in an attempt to cover the mouse, Battie picking up the poor thing and running for cover, she was clearly having a grand ole time. I was laughing at this point, and Jonathan turned to me. What is so funny?
The mouse ran away from Battie and into the kids' bathroom, Jonathan and saucepan ran in after it, and I slammed the door behind them, grabbed a piece of fabric from the cloth area and shoved it into the crack under the door.
Then, Jonathan screamed...in an unfamiliar high pitched tone. It makes me giggle to write this. Something, which he refuses to discuss with me, happened in there that involved bare skin and little feet.
Being the supportive wife that I am, I began looking about the playroom for things to help him. I shoved a play spoon from the kitchen set under the door. I am not sure why I chose this item. It was within arms reach and it fit under the door. Perhaps I thought it might be useful with the saucepan? He could prop it up like Elmer Fudd and attach a string? I found a discarded butterfly net, and also slid that in.
Silence. It's a bathroom. It is not that big a room.
A few moments later he said, I need Battie.
I scooped Battie up and opened the door, plopped her in and shut the door quickly.
And started laughing harder, because the expression I had seen on Jonathan's face, clutching the large sauce pan in his boxers was only matched by the expression Battie gave me once plopped on the floor.
Perhaps it was the sound of a heavy duty saucepan being thrown on wooden floors over and over again. Or an unknown woman screaming. Or me laughing hard while crouching on the playroom floor stuffing a piece of fabric under the bathroom door. But sure enough, Nicholas, hair standing on end and squinting, arrived in the playroom.
What are you two doing? he asked in his best preteen you guys are so weird tone.
Now, this is a 11 year old boy who just finished 5th grade health class, and is now, in his opinion, way too informed about what mommy and daddy might be doing in the middle of the night. And he really does not want to talk about it, thank you. But this? What he saw upon entering the blinding light of the playroom? It was not something he ever thought we might be up to when considering our night time activities.
For all the faint hearted, you will be happy to know that the mouse disappeared down the space between the sink drain and the bottom of the cabinet. Jonathan left Batttie in the bathroom for a bit. I think she may have used the litter box and had a snack of kibble. It had been a big night. And I snuck back and released her once Jonathan was snoring, taking pity on the scaredy cat who was again meowing, this time unmuffled with a possible meal. But I am quite sure that that mouse is just fine.
As I left for school this morning, the neighbor's driveway was filled with three, yes three, vehicles from a local "pest management service." Well. We know who is getting more sleep in the neighborhood than us...