by Kathy Waller
I was preparing an update to my January 25 post about resolving to read all forty-seven of Anthony Trollope’s novels in 2021. I worked all day yesterday and all day today (with time out to play Candy Crush and Scrabble Online while waiting to think of the next word).
The post was intended to be both light-hearted and erudite—the erudite part was the reason for the Candy Crush time-outs, because although when I was in graduate school I was, at times, extremely erudite, I’m a little out of practice.
And it takes a lot of words to be erudite. The piece kept getting longer and longer, with no end in sight.
So I did what I do. I scrapped it in the interest of a post with no erudition at all.
It begins with a cat bite and ends with a poem.
William the Cat had dental surgery last month. He’s twelve years old and overweight and diabetic, and I spent the day before surgery crying because I was afraid he would be anesthetized and never wake up.
However, he woke up and came home looking just as disgusted as he’d looked when he left home. In the interim, he’d lost five teeth, but he didn’t seem to miss them. In fact, he was downright perky.
Before surgery, David had to lift him onto the bed, where he spent his days monitoring squirrels and sleeping. Now he trips right up those kitty stairs and plops himself down any time he pleases.
He pleases when he smells coconut oil. I rub it on my hands at night for a moisturizer. He licks it off my hands. Sometimes he chases me onto the bed. Sometimes he gets there first and I have to wrestle him out of the way.
Being catlicked feels icky, but he’s elderly and determined, and I tolerate it, up to a point. The encounter usually ends in his getting a head, ear, and throat rub, followed by a tummy rub, accompanied by a rumbling purr (his). Sometimes he then walks across me, threatening to crack a couple of my ribs, to get to the other hand before succumbing to the tummy rub. Then he leaves.
But sometimes he bites. He’s always been a biter—lunge, chomp, lunge, chomp—as part of play. My fingers are toys. But where coconut oil is involved, he becomes the foe—adversary, attacker, assailant. Backbiter.
I’m not talking nips or little love bites. I mean he’s going for a mouthful of flesh and possibly some bone to go with it. And a few puncture wounds.
That’s how I know he still has his fangs. And that they’re in good working order.
Fortunately, the recent dental cleaning has kept me from having to visit the urgent care clinic for antibiotics. A little Neosporin and band-aids have sufficed.
I know about cat bites. Years ago, a stray cat named Perceval (I’d sort of adopted him) bit me when I gave him a tummy rub (not his fault; he turned belly-up, and I thought he wanted a tummy rub, but he’d been down the street chasing other stray cats and was still hyper). I ended up with cellulitis up to the elbow. “My gosh,” said the doctor, “we used to put people in the hospital on an antibiotic drip for that.”
More recently (six years ago, to be exact), while being worked on by a vet tech, William scraped my arm with a fang. Within twenty minutes the scrape was surrounded by a red circle two inches in diameter.
I went to the urgent care clinic. Then I went home and did what writers do: I wrote a poem about the experience.
But before I can talk about that poem, I must talk about another one: Leigh Hunt’s “Jenny Kissed Me.” It’s one of my favorites. To wit:
Jane Carlyle, wife of philosopher Thomas Carlyle, was a quiet woman. She did not show strong emotion. But one day when writer Leigh Hunt, who had been very ill, arrived for a visit, Jane jumped up from her chair, ran across the room, and kissed him. Surprised and delighted, Hunt memorialized the event in a poem.
Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.
And that is how I came to memorialize the almost-bite William gave me at the veterinarian’s office:
William bit me at the vet,
Didn’t like the aide’s assistance,
Used his claws and fangs to set
On the path of most resistance.
Say I’m teary, say I’m mad,
Say that pills and needles hit me,
Say my arm’s inflamed, and add,
William bit me.
~ Kathy Waller
Image of Jane Carlyle by Samuel Laurence via Wikipedia
Images of Candy Crush screen and of William by me
Kathy Waller blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly. Her stories appear in Murder on Wheels, Lone Star Lawless, and Day of the Dark. She’s working on a novel.