Monday morning Richard and I leapt out of bed. Hyperactive blood pumping through my veins.
The brass bell’s ring faded away.
The room, pitch black. Richard clicked the lamp on his night stand. No light. After a few moments, and some colorful euphemisms, he found the flash light.
My morning zombie avatar fled the noise. “You okay?” I asked, from my side of the bed.
“Yeah, you?” asked Richard, running the flashlight around the room.
“Yeah. What happened?” I asked, my heart returning to normal speed.
“I don’t know.” Richard pointed the flashlight at the bell. It slowed to a stop.
“What set that off?” I asked.
Richard ran the flashlight down the wall. On the nightstand beside me sat Wicket, our orange tabby, looking at us. He blinked. And joined our other orange tabby, Sadie, on the floor.
“What time do you think it is?” I asked, searching for my wrist watch. “Can you flash the light over here?”
Reaching behind the cats, I rescued my watch from the floor. It read 4:59 a.m..
“Oh crap, Richard, you’re gonna be late if you don’t get a move on, it’s almost 5 a.m.,” I said, the adrenaline rush returning, “if you’re not out of here in the next 15 minutes you’re gonna miss the Seattle ferry.”
Richard watched Wicket washing his face. They tolerate a standing truce. He shook his head. “It looks like I owe you one buddy.”
Richard jumped into the shower while I packed a quick breakfast by flashlight. I moved Richard’s backpack next to the mud room door.
Richard rushed out of the bedroom, stuffing his feet into his shoes.
Handing him his breakfast, keys, and cell phone, I said, “Your backpack is by the door. Don’t get a ticket.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be right on time,” said Richard, giving me a quick kiss on his way out.
Heading back to the bedroom, the flashlight caught two orange cats sitting next to their food dishes.
“Well you two,” I said, smiling, “you deserve a reward.”
Listening to the cats enjoying their breakfast, I crawled back into bed. The lights powered on.
* * *
My older sister, Lenora Jane, owner of two wired-hair terriers, said, “If you don’t want the cat ringing the bell, close the door.” Her tone implied problem solved. An imposing 4-feet 11-3/4 inches before she put her on heels, no one dared argue with her. Her answer for any argument, ‘I’m not bossy, I just have better ideas.’ Flipping her shoulder length, straight brown hair over her shoulder. “It’s just a cat.”
Richard and I laughed.
Putting my hand on her arm, I said, “Just a cat. Lenora Jane, before he was six-month-old, he could open any door in the house. Closets, cabinets, drawers it didn’t matter,” I said, a doppelgänger for my sister but standing 1/4-inch taller. “At one year, he backed a 180-pound Newfoundland into a corner. He didn’t hurt him, he just made the dog stay for ten minutes because it drank out of his water dish. He’s not just a cat.”
* * *
Saturday morning sunlight shone through the top of the rustling red and gold maple leaves above George and Bunny Gutierrez’s Gig Harbor, Washington, home. George emblazoned the blue star of the Dallas Cowboys on the garage door of their white ranch house in the middle of Seahawks country. Their tree cast a crown-like shadow on our driveway.
Bunny walked toward our brown and gray ranch house. She dodged the rainbow filled puddles on the white cement.
I held open the front door. Crisp air winged passed me. Goose bumps landed on the arms of my hunter green turtle neck.
Bunny entered. Bending over, she gave me a big hug and peck on the cheek.
I led her into my bedroom so I could finish getting ready.
“Fannie, honey, why do you have a brass bell practically on the ceiling above your bed?” Bunny asked, with her refined Texas accent. Her long blond hair, swept back into a pony tail behind her head, crowning her statuesque figure. She wore a dark blue running suit with coordinating jacket and gloves.
“Lenora Jane, gave it to Richard for his birthday last year,” I said, pulling on my boots, “we hung it there in the hopes the cats would leave it alone.”
Bunny looked over my shoulder at the two orange cats, asleep, intertwined in an infinity knot on the bed behind me. “They can reach that?”
“Wicket can. Although you’ll never catch him in the act,” I said, pulling on my navy blue pea coat. “Sadie tries but can’t quite reach it. She knocks herself and the books off my nightstand every time.”
Bunny walked over to my side of the bed. She stood on her tip-toes, all 5’10” of her. Stretching her arm, her fingertips brushed the bottom of the rope hanging from the bell. She pulled my step stool away from the sleigh bed. Standing on top of the stool, she grabbed the rope. A quick tug. The brass played a single vibrato-filled note.
Two balls of fur leaped into the air.
Bunny jumped—almost falling off the stool.
The cats gained traction on the bedspread and exited the room on the safety express.
“I guess we know how they feel about the bell when someone else rings it,” I said, laughing. “Come on, we have just enough time to pick up Clarissa before the matinee starts.”
* * *
I stood at the kitchen sink after dinner, staring out the window, and washed the last dish.
The setting sun burst through the cloud cover. It lit up our back yard. A breeze moved the cedar trees with their green and gold foliage. The gold boughs rained from the trees. They created a golden carpet around the raised beds. Mushrooms pushed up through the autumn cover. A gray squirrel buried a peanut at the base of a cedar.
Two crows pecked the ground under the bird feeder. One cawed. They flew into the trees.
Three raccoons wandered out of the green belt into the yard where the crows once stood. Two of them climbed into the aggregate bird bath. The bath tottered for a moment. Water splashed onto the raccoon below. It shook its head.
“Hey, Richard,” I said, over my shoulder, “it looks like raccoons are moving in.”
Richard walked into the kitchen. He put his arms around my waist. Towering over me, he looked out the window.
“I’ll get the camera, my mom would love to see this,” Richard said.
“Whatever you do, don’t let Wicket get outside,” I said, when he left the kitchen in search of his camera.
“Pffft,” Richard said, waving his hand at me, “when was the last time he got passed me?”
Camera in hand, Richard closed the sliding glass door. An orange streak raced in front of him. Three raccoons hissed the 1812 overture. An orange cat howled the french horn section.
Richard scream, “Wicket, NO.”
Blood rushed to my ears. I raced into the back yard on my epinephrine enhanced short legs, kitchen broom in hand.
A super-fluffed cat tackled the wet raccoon. Orange and gray fur filled the air. Two twenty-something pound raccoons leaped from the bird bath, landing on the cat. Wicket let out a soul wrenching scream.
Richard grabbed the brown plastic leaf rake.
Bumping passed Richard, I reached the fur melee first. With the fury of a possessed cat lover and screaming like a woman giving birth, I swung the broom with the skill of Sammy Sosa on steroids.
The first raccoon croquet ball rolled four feet before hitting a raised bed. It grunted.
Richard raked the second raccoon into the first one. They speed wobbled toward the green belt.
Using the wooden handles of our weapons, we pried the blood-soaked cat from the wet, blood-stained raccoon.
Richard swung the rake around like a baton. He scooped the raccoon toward the greenbelt and escape.
I landed on the cat—squashing him against the ground. “Richard, get the cat carrier. We’re going to the emergency vet.”
Four hours of emergency cat care, ten minutes of medication instruction and a wallet enema, produced a partially shaved cat. Stitches. Long strands of off-white surgical tube protruding from multiple locations at odd angles.
We left the vet with Franken-kitty.
Richard carried the cat meds and instructions. I carried the cat.
We assembled the kitty triage station on the end of the yellow linoleum kitchen counter. Plush yellow towel for cat comfort. Check. Bag of fluids for cat hydration. Check. Hydrogen Peroxide and Q-tips for wound cleaning. Check. Antibiotic pills from hell. Check. Band Aids and Neosporin for humans. Check, check.
“I love my cat. I love my cat. I love my cat,” I said, with more conviction than I felt.
“Fannie, what are you doing?” Richard asked. His look said it all, my wife’s gone off the cliff.
“I’m psyching myself up to give Wicket his first pill,” I said, rubbing my hands together. I pulled the cat nail clippers out of my back pocket. “Wish me luck.”
Richard patted me on the back. “Go get ‘em, ma tiger.”
Round 1: Wicket and Sadie sat on the floor at my feet. Sadie washed Wicket’s face. I picked up Wicket. Placed him on the towel. His sedative still worked its magic. I clipped every nail without protest.
Round 2: I put Wicket on the floor. I removed a pill from the bottle. Forget the pillow case method, he’s too big. I trap the 22-pound Wicket between my knees and quasi-sat on him. His front legs trapped beneath my knees. Grasping the neck scruff, I forced his mouth open. Letting loose his I’m-being-murdered yowl, his left front leg came loose. It ripped through the air lodging a grappling hook paw on the side of my hand.
Round 3: After the bleeding stopped, the Band Aids applied, the cat and I reloaded. His cobra head twisting in every direction. The screech of death rattling off the walls. The pill lodged in his cheek. He spit like a llama.
Find pill. Repeat.
Seven Band Aids and two hours later, on the tenth try, a hoarse cat swallowed the barely recognizable pill.
The next morning, our doorbell rang. Bunny stood on the porch with a small decorative gift bag. “Fannie, honey, we couldn’t help but hear you and Wicket battle to the death over a pill last night. I’ve brought you a present that should solve your problem,” Bunny said, with her refined Texas accent.
I opened the bag. Inside, Greenie’s Pill Pockets—chicken flavor. “How do they work?”
“Put the pill inside. Seal the end. Tell the cat it’s a treat,” Bunny said. Winking, “You’ll never bleed again.” She nodded toward the back of my hands.
“Do you want to watch?” I asked, clutching the bag to my chest. My shoulders relaxing.
Bunny shook her head. “I don’t want to be late for work.”
I walked into the kitchen. I’d never fed my cats treats before. This should be interesting.
Richard joined me in the kitchen. “I heard Bunny’s voice.”
“She dropped off a gift for the cats.”
I opened the bag, wrapped the pill in a pocket. Both cats sat at my feet and stared at me. They never accepted any treats from the Vet.
Putting on my you’ll-love-this face, I said, “Treat, yum.”
Sending up a silent prayer, I gave Sadie an empty pocket and Wicket the loaded pocket. He ate it—no crumbs, no battle, no blood.
Richard smiled his devilish grin. “Well, Fannie, that’s some gift. Silence and pill pockets for your pain.”