When I was in college, I went to Sweden for a summer. I found myself on a farm, mucking horse stalls, baling hay for a little while, and also working part-time installing ventilation systems and part-time at a car-parts store. I do not like horses. I am not a cowboy. I do not know anything about ventilation systems. And I take my car to a mechanic for nearly everything. So clearly, I was pretty successful in all of my summer endeavors. But despite all those different experiences, what sticks out most is waking up one morning. That’s because I woke up to a nightmare. There was a cat, sitting in my closet on a pile of my clothes, disemboweling a hare. Fun fact: the noise of a cat tearing into a hare is loud enough to wake a person up.
When I realized what was happening, I ran downstairs to grab a shovel. Not to kill the cat, but to shovel up the dead remains of a hare. By the time I got back to the scene of the crime, the cat had dragged the hare around two entire rooms, leaving blood and remains everywhere. It was like a miniature murder scene. I cleaned up after the cat, cursing, and vowing to avoid any dealings with cats again. Because one incident is enough. ‘Twas not to be.
I returned to Oregon to find that my roommates had adopted a cat. A cat that enjoyed peeing in my room, pooping on my bathroom rug, and generally screaming at me. But this was years ago. Nearly ten years ago, in fact. Scars heal. Memories fade. That sort of thing. Yet here I am, rehashing the trauma inflicted upon me by Lucifer’s handmaidens.
That’s because my girlfriend has cats. Two of them. I do not like cats. For several reasons, including those outlined above. A few days ago, those cats moved out to Wisconsin with AJR. By car. We were part of a small caravan moving across the country. We drove almost a thousand miles with two cats in the car. We also spent one night in a hotel with two cats. I tell cat-owners this and they shake their head with a knowing smile. A knowing smile that is full of empathy, sympathy, pity, even trauma. Smiles can say a lot.
That’s before I tell them that I was attacked by a cat at 3am. It dug its demon claws into my toes, while trying to communicate with its banshee brothers through a wide-mouthed mawing. I buried my head in the pillow and my feet in the sheets in hopes of trying to sleep. Or at least in hopes of keeping my toes in tact and not stabbing pencils into my ears to dampen the noise. Unfortunately, it was at this point that the cat decided it was best to begin parading back and forth across my head as it screamed the scream of a thousand spawns of Satan. For an hour. Around 4:00, I began plotting my revenge. By 4:30, I was on the verge of tears. By 5:00, I was debating on packing everything into the car, cats included, and driving the rest of the way to Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the aforementioned caravan meant we were stuck. Because if there’s one thing I learned from The Oregon Trail it’s that you never leave your caravan behind. That’s how folks die of dysentery. Or starvation because no one brought back 200 pounds of meat.
Eventually, AJR locked the cats into the bathroom. With the air conditioning cranked up their screams were muffled and, for a few sweet hours, I slept the sleep of a drunken baby. But Bruce Springsteen serenaded me just a couple of hours later, and it was time to continue our drive westward. My eyes burned. My body ached. My ears echoed. My toes were nervous. Suddenly, the zombie-like state of my friends who have young children made sense. A fitful sleep punctuated by screaming does not a rested person make. At least a cat can be locked in a bathroom with some food, water, and a litter box. Pretty sure that constitutes neglect if you replace the cat with a baby.
Welcome to Swedish America. And kattfan. Times two.