Two for the price of one

This weekend, my husband and I drove to southern Indiana to house-sit for a friend.  We came back today with well-deserved hangovers and two kittens.  While the details of the great cat acquisition remain somewhat hazy, it is clear that the kittens are here to stay. 

They look like fat little tigers and run with a hopping lean off to the left, like their legs are unevenly matched in length.  It’s an endearing gait that makes everything they do precious.  I hope the vet agrees with my impression of the situation as something cute and not neurological/physiological.  

As we continue to be delighted with the duo’s antics and endless energy, Big Jelly does not share our sentiments.  Big Jelly is an old, overweight cat with a long list of things that she doesn’t like; little cats top the list.

Thankfully, the kittens are napping now from the car ride home, hours of tearing through the apartment after each other, climbing up the backside of furniture, and taunting Big Jelly.  We are just as tired from chasing after the little cats and preventing the cat fight that is certain to ensure between the kittens and Big Jelly.

I am sure that with enough time and coaxing, the kittens and Big Jelly will become fast friends or least will tolerate being in the same room.  By Christmas, I hope to send out a card with the three curled up together on a cushion with their human caretakers, with a message that says, “The more, the merrier.”

Life is a funny and unpredictable journey filled with twists and curves along the way; where we end up and who is there with us is an ongoing mystery.  Who could have guessed that we would come home with two, naughty little kittens?  Or that they would have already brought so much happiness and laughter?  

What is the secret to attaining the same level of kitten induced joy without adopting an animal?  Appreciate the small things of life, take chances, and then go ahead and treat yourself by adopting a kitten or two.

The Bird’s Oatmeal

“Strange, isn’t it?” the woman asked and stared out the window.  

She dried a wineglass as she did so, carefully wiping the crystal dry.  There were only four glasses left from the original set, she thought with sadness.  Clumsiness would be her downfall as it had been for much of her wedding china.

“What?” her husband asked, blissfully unaware of the broken glasses and dishes.   Each broken piece was treated as evidence of what his wife called “the dropsies” to be disposed of as quickly as possible.    

“The light, it’s just so eerie.  Everything looks fresh and alien at the same time.   The grass doesn’t seem real, it’s like each blade was just shaved from a block of green.”

She’s such an unusual little dreamer, the man thought as he flipped through a pile of letters.   

He got up and peeked out the window, the sky was dark.  Yet, the trees and grass were illuminated from just a few cracks in the heavy clouds.  He pushed the window up and warm air rushed in bringing the smell of rain and dirt.

The outside world was dry and still.  Leaves hung motionless from branches and then began to shiver as a gentle wind blew in and began to swell.  The gentle wind turned into a bullying gust and roared around the trees, shaking the limbs and branches.  Flowers and leaves flew up into the air and swirled with bits of dirt and dust. 

The window slammed shut on its own with a loud bang.  The man jumped back wine and knocked a wineglass from the rack.  It crashed to the ground and the set was reduced once again.

The next morning, the man left before the sun was up for work.

An alarm went off and the woman lay in bed, fighting the desire to fall back to sleep.

Throwing off the covers, she knew that she had to get up and go to work if she wanted to keep her job.  She shook her head, no, that wasn’t right.   She couldn’t care any less about the job, but her husband minded.   He cared a good deal that she was employed and they were able to pay the bills. 

She looked out the window and gasped.  The yard was covered with broken limbs, branches, leaves and random pieces of trash caught up in the storm.  Water still dripped from the edges of the window.  The woman wrapped herself in an old coat, slipped into a pair of rubber garden shoes and stepped outside.

The sky was overcast and the air felt damp and cool.  It must have stormed all night, she thought, trying to remember if she heard thunder or lightning.  Still wondering, she started to pick up the debris and soon had an armful that she dropped next to the house.  She planned to bag the pile up after work and shuddered at the thought of how she had to spend the next eight hours of her life.

A rustling in the grass near the pile she just dropped caught her attention.   It didn’t slither or weave back and forth, which provided some comfort as she leaned closer to investigate.

“A baby bird!” she exclaimed. 

She crouched next to the bald little creature as it flapped its wings and hopped up and down.  It begged for help with each chirp.  Food, shelter, a sweater, anything will do at this time, it seemed to say.

The woman looked around, no nest, no mommy bird, no worms.  This is bad for you, baby bird.

The bird locked eyes with the woman and starting hopping towards her, uninhibited by the fear that should have sent it in the opposite direction.  Desperation leads creatures and humans alike to make peculiar choices, not easily explained or repeated, but driven out of the need to survive.                

Unable to watch a creature suffer, the woman held her hands out and scooped up the chirruping bird, against all warnings she ever heard.

She brought it inside and made a cozy home out of a Kleenex box for the bird and called off work for the day.  

The bird grew fat and healthy on oatmeal and crushed worms.  It moved out of the Kleenex box and into an old wire cage that the woman found filled with colorful scarves at a thrift store.   She had a standing order for a box of night-crawlers each week at nearby bait shop.  Glossy, blue feathers covered the bird’s body.  They trailed behind the bird, a royal train of color.  Each morning, it woke the couple up with trills and tra-la-la’s as it flew into their room, hungry for crushed worm and oatmeal.   It took to riding on the man’s shoulder and cuddling on the woman’s neck in the evenings.  During the day, the bird flew about the house without restraint.

They grew old together, the couple and the bird. 

The woman shook her head, no, that isn’t right. What bird eats oatmeal? That’s just what you like for breakfast. 

The bird locked eyes with the woman and hopped toward her.  

“What kind of life could we really give you?”

It kept hopping, closer and closer, demanding a decision. 

Sunday night dread

Sunday night, the rumor returns to me, like a punch to the gut.  It lingers on the fore-front of my thoughts and gnaws at my peace of mind.

On Monday, I am due to visit a curmudgeon of an old woman.  She usually stays in her bed with the covers pulled up to her neck and mixes subtle insults for me with complaints of her health.  There is a haughty pride in her suffering that she is only too glad to share with others.

However unpleasant, it is not the curmudgeon that concerns me.  Rather, it is the visitor who is staying indefinitely in her basement.  He’s a wanted man with a bit of a mental health issue, already a felon, holed up in the damp and cool space underneath of the woman’s home. He is quite naturally no longer taking his mood-stabilizing medication. 

The situation gives me cause to wonder how strong the fight or flight instinct might be in a person so clearly desperate to avoid capture and arrest.  Does he ever leave or do friends come to visit?  Who is providing food and water to this person of questionable character when the old woman claims to be bed-ridden and living completely alone?  How many other curmudgeons are also hosting criminals in basements and back bedrooms? 

If I allow my mind the freedom to continue to wander, the questions keep coming and a sense of fear pervades.  Instead, I’m taking control and roping in my imagination.  More than anything, I’m sincerely hoping that it’s another silly rumor and then maybe looking for a new job on my next lunch hour.  

Hold-out

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The man sat on an upturned bucket next to a jug of cheap wine.  He stared out the window with bleary, blood-shot eyes.  Despite all logic and the warnings of his wife, he knew he was making the right decision.  What was he anyways, as a man without a home?  I’ve never lived in an apartment and I’m not about to start, he reasoned.

A car slowed in front of the home and pulled into the drive.  The man’s heart beat quickened.  He walked to the window and peered out from the side to avoid detection from the outside.  A couple stepped out from each side of the car, beaming with excitement.  It was time to take a stand, the man thought, they’re here. 

The man heard the front door open and steeled himself for what was to come. 

“Oh my God, someone’s here,” the woman exclaimed.

Muddy boot tracks led down the hallway to the den and the door was shut. 

Why was the door closed, the young man silently wondered with a sick feeling, afraid his wife was right.  He tried not to jump to conclusions, but instinctively wanted to protect the woman from whatever was on the other side of the door. 

“Stay back here while I check the door,” he said.

 He bravely walked forward and tried to open the door.  It was locked.

“Try to push it, maybe it’s just stuck,” his wife tried to help.

 “I can’t turn the door knob, it’s definitely locked,” he said over his shoulder.

“Who’s in there?” he demanded.

“Listen kids, the deal’s off.  I’m not leaving,” the man behind the door explained in a gruff voice.

 His mind was set, this was his house.  Paperwork from the bank could never change that, he thought.  He would find the money the bank wanted.  He looked around and put his hand on the wall, I put this up.  I ran electricity into this room and I built that staircase.  Why should I walk away from all this and let a pair of brats move in?

The man paced back and forth, I bet they never did a full day’s worth of work in their lives.  They don’t deserve this.  He was more resolute than before, he would move back in and they would leave.

The pair heard the man clomping back and forth in heavy boots.  They knew exactly who was on the other side of the door and worried what it would take for him to leave their house.   There was nothing left to negotiate, the deal was done and money already changed hands.

“You need to leave before I call the police,” the young man said.

“Do it, I’ll explain that I’m the rightful owner and you are trespassing,” the old man yelled through the door.    

“There’s something wrong with this guy.  What if he has a gun? ” the woman whispered. 

Indeed, on the other side of the door, leaned neatly against the wall was a shot gun.  It was the man’s just-in-case-insurance policy that he had taken out as precaution.

“Ok, I’m calling the police now,” the man announced and dialed 911.

The woman walked back towards the front door and called Brenda, the real estate agent who sold them the house.  They had just closed a week ago and went out to dinner afterwards to celebrate. 

“Brenda, we have a situation,” the woman said quietly into the phone.  She quickly explained the predicament with confidence that Brenda would have a solution. 

“I was afraid of this with him,” Brenda responded gravely. 

The woman heard Brenda yell to someone in her office, “We’ve got a hold out situation on Central and 50th.”

“Honey, hang in there and don’t worry.  I’ve dealt with this before and I’m on my way.”    

The woman breathed a sigh of relief, there was a name and a protocol for this circumstance, and it would all be over very soon.  

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