Sprite’s sleeves don’t match.
Her left arm is tabby gray and her right arm is bright yellow.
I say “arms,” not “paws.” At the end of each sleeve there’s a dainty white glove, which shows you that Sprite is a perfect lady.
At least, she is now, when she doesn’t spend all night howling, only to come home “with kitten.”
The right side of Sprite’s forehead is gray, and the left side is yellow.
Her head does not match her arms.
From nose to breast she’d be quite white, except for a smudge of multicolored confusion that encircles her mouth and gives you the impression that she’s frowning.
Miss Spritey does not seem to approve of many things, and certainly not of the people she lives with.
We are rude, rude creatures who strive to get familiar, and overstep the boundaries by attempting to pick her up and push our dirty bald faces into her pristine head. We kiss her cheeks through her whiskers, and foolishly rub our foreheads into her fur.
It has been years since she pulled out her claws to teach us some manners; evidently, we were too stupid to learn. Now, when she’s had enough of our fawning, she jumps from our arms and hides, hoping we’ll feel chastised by her absence.
Of course, she doesn’t run away anymore.
She was given the run of the neighborhood in her youth. More to be pitied than censured, she lost her innocence before she was a year old, and before she could understand the consequences.
Nature does not forgive, and on Mother’s Day of 2002, as Sprite walked down the stairs to the basement, she shrieked loudly enough to wake the dead, as an alien form emerged from within.
As Sprite looked back at the wriggling blob, her expression betrayed her thoughts. “Well! That doesn’t happen every day!” After a momentary pause, she moved on.
She couldn’t understand why one of the humans picked up this excretion and started chasing after her, yelling, “Sprite! Sprite, darling, this is your kitten!” The human kept pushing this under her nose, and Sprite would have administered a vigorous correction had another strong cramp not overtaken her. Another thing fell out. Sprite lay down and examined this one. It was bloody and needed to be cleaned. As soon as it became presentable, it latched on to her belly and started to suck the life out of her. What a bizarre creature! It was only the second of five, and by the end of the day, Sprite was surrounded by parasitic fur balls… including that first one, which the humans had forced her to accept.
Before long she was consigned to an unfamiliar human overnight, only to be returned to the original fools with a torn and sutured belly. For years, she was forced to remain at home, until the youngest human in the house foolishly left a window screen open on a bright spring day.
Freedom! For three whole months Sprite roamed the neighborhood again. She would occasionally be seen walking across a roof… jumping out of a sewer… chasing a bird across the branches of a tree… but she would never be spotted where we humans could reach her and pick her up. Oh! How she taunted us! She littered our lawn with the carcasses of the mice she had killed, and lapped up every bowl of water we left for her.
Just as we were losing hope, another of our species provided us with a medieval apparatus known as a “humane trap,” and advised us to fill it with exceptionally stinky cat food. We did this, and placed it by a very large window facing the yard.
Late one night, Sprite found the scent of its bait a bit too inviting, and she ventured to step inside. With back legs as far behind her as possible, she stretched out until her mouth reached the plateful of food, and proceeded to eat the whole thing. She then exited the contraption without touching its mechanism, and disappeared into the night, enjoying a very full belly.
Day after day and night after night, Sprite would feast on proferred offerings, always confident that she had outwitted her former captors. One day, her hubris caught up with her. She stepped in for an afternoon snack just as the youngest human, the one who’d let her out, happened to look out the window. “Sprite!” he yelled out, throwing himself against the glass.
The noise startled her. She jumped into the air and her feet landed on the mechanism. CLANG! The door fell down and Sprite was trapped.
The young human, brimming with glee and triumph, picked up the phone and called his mother.
“I got her! I got her, Mom! I got Sprite!”
“No! How did you manage it!”
With the voice of the satisfied hunter, as deep as that of a full grown man, he proudly replied, “She got SLOPPY.”
And so she was brought back into the house, where she now reigns in haughty supremacy. She has grown exceedingly large and wide, and now resembles a calico pillow. Fittingly, she spends her most of her time on the couch, staring out the nearest window, watching as birds fly by, and cars course through the street.
She has made a grudging peace with us humans. Every now and then, as she walks from her couch to her dish, she’ll make a detour to the place where we’re sitting, and rub her soft head on our legs. We coo and call it affection. She is simply marking her territory, and branding us as her property, but she’s happy to humor our delusions, as long as we keep providing her with food.
As long as we don’t pick her up.
You would not pick up the Queen.
Sprite commands the same respect.
And a bit more adulation.
Never invite a very old pussycat to partake of your ice cream sandwich.
We have a seriously ancient old moggie named Hermione who has grown very skinny with age. She wasn’t always thin… shortly after she adopted us she grew a backside as big as a Buick. However, in the last four or five years, every calorie she consumes seems to produce a purr; she no longer gains weight.
Her bowl is always full, of course. We share our home with four cats, and they have access to us while we sleep. We’re very careful not to let them get hungry enough to eat our faces.
However, although Hermione spends quite a bit of time at the bowl, we wonder whether she gets enough to eat.
We also worry that she may not have enough teeth to break down her cat food. One of her canines is gone, but we haven’t opened her mouth to see what else is missing lest we find that remaining fang sunk deep into our hands.
I started sneaking her cans of soft food. This involves locking her into a room that her progeny can’t enter, and listening to their cries as they complain that grandma gets special treatment.
There had to be another way… and I found it one night after dinner.
As I sat in the living room, enjoying a creamy ice cream sandwich, I thought to myself, “I should be sharing this with Hermione.”
Like an idiot, I called her over. I scraped a little bit of vanilla ice cream on my thumbnail, and placed it in front of the cat. I put the tiniest bit right under her nose.
She trembled at the cold, and licked herself clean. Then she looked at me with newly predatory eyes, and lunged for my thumb, which she licked exuberantly.
Hermie liked this stuff.
For a few nights I kept scraping her portions on to my thumb, until I finally got the good sense to scoop the vanilla from my sandwich using a plastic spoon. Hermione’s portions grew bigger and bigger.
She became more insistent, too. At first, I had to call her for her ice cream. Soon, she started jumping on me as soon as she saw I was holding a sandwich, and dancing (claws out) on my lap as I tried to get it open.
It wasn’t long before she decided she had a right to taste every food that the old lady was eating. She’d watch me eat Cheerios intently, telepathically communicating that she wanted the milk at the bottom of the bowl. She’d meow her outrage if I lit into leftover meatloaf; I quickly learned it was smart to put a few chunks in her plate.
She is, at this point, too empowered. One day last week, I was in my arm chair lunching on a chicken salad sandwich… and I didn’t call her. She jumped on my lap and stared at me. “Hi, Sweetie!” I said, in my syrupiest voice. “Would you like to try some chicken salad when I’m through?”
She gave me a withering look, and stuck her whole head inside my sandwich.
I don’t know about you, but I have reservations about eating chicken salad once a cat’s head has been in it.
I gave her the sandwich, and she ate the entire thing.
The damn thing is she ate my whole lunch, and didn’t gain any weight.
Betcha I did.