My family–that’s me, Wife Unit, Nublet, and our two Maine Coon cats, Fat Cat and Flat Cat–rent a small 85-year-old house that’s got “character.” When somebody in, say, Southern Living talks about a house having “character,” they’re probably talking about its history, its charm, its “feel,” if you will.
When you’re talking about a house with “character” in the real world that I occupy, though, “character” means stuff like:
– a surprising number of corners that aren’t quite 90 degrees
– becoming one with nature because the doors and windows don’t seal very well
– getting to know your neighbors, mostly of the four-, six- and eight-legged variety
That last one is the key to this tale. And it’s not helped by the fact that my wife and I are both longtime thirty-second degree Grand Weasels of the Ancient and Illuminated Order of Slobs. When you’re dealing with the sheer amount of feces that life’s slung at us the past four years, there are things that slip through the cracks (or, in our case, roll down the slant in the living room floor and fall through the furnace intake grate), and keeping the Bunker of Love neat as a pin is sometimes one of them.
(That having been said, we love the house. My wife has her own bead studio in the attic, we have a sunroom dedicated to our computers, Nublet has a yard to play in, it’s got nice big trees for shade, and it’s in a neighborhood that, when it’s not undergoing a rash of break-ins, has real charm and nice people. Downsides? Well, there was the slight matter of suffering through the hottest summer in 120 years with no central air conditioning, but, hey, that builds character. Or something.)
Anyway. So there we were last night, the Wife Unit and yours truly, on our respective computers in our rather cluttered sunroom. We’re in the process of doing some spring cleaning, so the room was a bit more cluttered even than usual while things were being sorted out. But, we’d called it an evening after some good hard work, and were off saving the world (in her case, playing Dragon Age) or just chilling out (in my case, noodling around on Youtube). Nublet was in bed, and the house was blissfully quiet.
I heard a bit of a commotion from behind us, in the living room, but didn’t really pay it any mind…I figured it was just the cats having a bit of a “discussion,” as they do occasionally. Fat Cat and Flat Cat are not blood relatives but we’ve had them both for seven years, and like any brothers, they have their spats occasionally.
A quick bit of background here: Fat Cat and Flat Cat aren’t their real names, but they’ll do for here, and the pseudonyms are accurate. Fat Cat was our first pet after getting married, bought from a reputable Maine Coon breeder, and he is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, fucking huge. Yes, we have let him get too fat. Yes, he was huge even before he got fat. He’s a Maine Coon. They do that. He’s about thirty pounds, and while he’s not exactly nimble, he’s not as immobile as you’d think a thirty-pound cat would be. He’s also lazy, arrogant, entitled, and dumber than a bag of hammers.
Flat Cat is our second cat. We got him not long after we got Fat Cat, but Flat Cat is a rescue Maine Coon. For a Maine Coon, he’s positively scrawny. We’ve been repeatedly assured that he’s healthy as a horse, but he just won’t gain weight. He’s skinny, solid gray, with the fluffiest, most pettable long fur you can imagine. He’s also scared of people and as insecure as the day is long. Oh, and he lost his tail when he was a kitten, so he just has a tiny little nub at the back, like a Doberman. It’s tiny, but it’s very expressive.
So. Back to the commotion. All of a sudden, here comes Flat Cat, rocketing into the room at warp speed. He slams on the brakes, scrabbles on the hardwood floors, does a Jeremy Clarkson Top Gear powerslide around a garbage bag, and comes to a stop in front of a pile of clutter soon to hit the garbage can, ears and nub twitching madly. We both stop what we’re doing on our computers and look at him, because this is odd behavior for Flat Cat.
Suddenly he lunged with his paws (this cat has absolutely gigantic furry tufted paws, made bigger-looking because he’s skinny) at something under a box. I looked at Wife Unit. “Guess he’s found a palmetto bug?”, I asked, referring to the big brown redneck roaches that are prevalent around here.
“Maybe,” she replied, squinting to see. “Or it might be a…”
Just then, Flat Cat popped his head back up from behind the box, and trotted out of the room, holding in his mouth a small, gray, furry shape. With a tail.
Now, it’s not all that unusual for us to find mice. A few months ago, we caught Fat Cat nomming on something we thought for a split-second was an olive, until we realized it was actually a mostly-defleshed mouse skull. We’ve also seen live ones running around on two occasions…one even got caught between the panes of a living-room window, thus turning into a live-action mousequarium for the cats until it eventually got out. (Better than “Animal Planet,” even.)
What we’d never seen before is Flat Cat, our shy, skittish, cowardice-is-the-better-part-of-valor cat, go after one. We always figured he’d make a good mouser, since he’s fast, he’s got massive paws, and he loves to play with stuff on the ground (as opposed to Fat Cat, who always likes to bat stuff hanging up in the air). But he never showed the least inclination to do it…until last night. So needless to say, considering that (a) we don’t like mice, (b) we get mice in the house sometimes, and (c) two mouse-hunters are better than one, we were pleased at this turn of events, and cheered Flat Cat from afar.
About three minutes later, I heard the characteristic “pwumf-pwumf-pwumf” of Fat Cat’s paws on hardwood. (Yes, you can hear him walking on the floor. He’s about as stealthy as a rockslide.) I looked down in time to see Fat Cat glide by me and flop down in the floor between me and Wife Unit…carrying a mouse. Flat Cat’s mouse. Flat Cat trailed behind him, but when he got about two kitty paces away, Fat Cat turned around and started growling. It was a deep, low, menacing “get any closer and I will rip your whiskers off and shove them up your ass” noise that would be more at home coming out of a Rottweiler, not a flabby gray-and-white tabby cat with his pudgy face full of dying mouse. (Fat Cat, obviously, is upper management material. He let Flat Cat do all the hard work, like actually moving, to get the mouse, and then once the situation was in hand, he swooped down to reap the rewards and take all the credit.)
After a minute of alternately growling, nomming, and batting the dying mouse around, Fat Cat picked it up and pwumfed back out of the room to the living room. By now, we figured we had to put an end to our own little episode of Mutual of Omaha’s “Domesticated Kingdom”–partially because we really didn’t like seeing the mouse suffer (hey, they’re vermin, but they’re cute furry vermin with twitchy noses, you must admit), but mostly because we didn’t want Fat Cat taking the corpus delecti and losing it in our laundry like he did the last time. So I distracted him with a potato chip while Wife Unit scooped the mouse into a box and dumped it out in the front yard to bleed out. (What, you thought we were going to take it to the emergency vet or something?) So both cats were petted and praised as if they’d scored 1600 on their SATs…although Fat Cat, as the manager, did score a little bit of potato chip.
The true end to the story, though, didn’t come until this morning. As I was staggering to the shower to get ready for work, Wife Unit called to me from the kitchen. I wandered in there and blinked as she shoved something in my face. It was small, and ovoid, and wrapped in blue foil.
It was a Cadbury creme egg.
More precisely, it was a Cadbury creme egg with the foil torn off one side and little mouse toothmarks in the exposed chocolate.
She then said, in what we’ve grown to call Reasonable Voice, “that little rodent fuck.”
Now, my wife is a reasonably mild-mannered human being. She’s got a temper, as do we all, but it doesn’t show very often. (She also doesn’t curse very much, especially f-bombs.) However…if you even think about messing with her Cadbury creme eggs, she will shank you like it’s the showers at San Quentin. I don’t even get Cadbury privileges in my own house. If she’d found that egg last night, I would’ve had to explain to the neighbors why my beloved was jumping up and down in the front yard at 10:30 pm screaming “DIE YOU FURRY EGG-EATING PIECE OF SHIT!”
Mice in the house? We live with it to a point. Mice touching the Cadbury eggs? Shit just got real, yo.