At 6:16 this morning, I climb on the stepper and start cranking. I think, ‘Ta, this is never difficult. You make it so in your mind.’ I make it and my rump less so for fewer than thirty seconds when I spot Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, digging near a closet door where no digging should be required. A tiny brown field mouse shoots across the floor, closely followed by Larry, now a predator bent on predation. About 1:30 into my workout, my blood pressure skyrockets as I try screaming but make noises only dogs hear.
Larry: Hey! Professional at work, here…
Larry, for his part, catches and grips the hapless mousy in his mouth. The mousy is a big mouthful for a small cat. Larry walks a few steps with his plaything before the mousy makes a break for it. Larry stares fiercely at the fleeing thing as if to say, “Mrrrow, you are mine, mrrrow,” before slapping a paw down on the escapee. Larry picks up the mousy again in his mouth. The mousy runs; Larry pounces. The mousy runs under the stepper.
Tata: GET HIM!
Mousy: A little help, huh?
Larry: Perfection cannot be rushed!
At 6:22, I dial Mamie’s cellphone and go straight to voicemail. Angry and stage-whispering through clenched teeth, I leave a message.
Tata: It is TOO early to call SISTER #1 but I HAVE to tell SOMEBODY. THIS is the most TERRIFYING day of my LIFE. I am GOING to lose my MIND. LARRY is CHASING a mousy ALL OVER my ENTIRE HOUSE.
Mamie, that heartless bitch, declares this my “…funniest message without a threat to public safety.” Another reviewer raves, “Girlie! Hilarious! I’d pay to see this movie!” The critics however are ahead of me as my fifteen minutes on the stepper turns into twenty-five when I try levitating to avoid the life and death struggle on my living room and bedroom floors. I surrender the idea of pushups and crunches and start a shower while Larry corners the mousy in my bedroom.
I. Do Not. Want. A Mousy. IN MY BEDROOM!
In the shower, I berate myself for not prising the wounded and now-crooked mousy from the jaws of the giant and seemingly expanding cat, but that’s secondary to my new mantra which I loudly repeat to steady myself.
Tata: This is NOT HAPPENING…This is NOT HAPPENING…
I have GOT TO CALM DOWN! I respond to scents, so I wash my hair with Biolage Matrix Fortifying Shampoo, condition with Biolage Matrix Earth Tones Copper Color Refreshing Conditioner, and a second rinse with Biolage Matrix Fortifying Conditioner. I lather up with my favorite St. Ives Energizing Citrus Moisturizing Body Wash; slough with St. Ives Apricot Hand & Foot Scrub, and wash my face with Dove Daily Exfoliating Cleanser. You can bet your bottom dollar I bought every one of those items with a coupon except for the salon hair products for which I’d pay twice retail if I could because this is Jersey, and that is practically the law. Steeled by soothing aromas, I shut off the shower and toss aside the curtain.
A few weeks ago, I was talking on the phone while putting away my laundry when I discovered a giant dead bumble bee on my bedroom floor. I have become such an unbelievable pussy in my advanced old age that it took me almost a week to pick the thing up with a dustpan and broom and flush it to the Delaware & Raritan Canal.
A few years ago, when the rock star boyfriend was touring all the time, we had two cats who would sometimes kill fieldmousies. In fact, we humans counted on them killing the mousies. If the cats hadn’t killed the mousies we would have awakened daily – me, the sometime other human and the cats – to mousy mosh pits in what passed for our living room. In this scenario, the cats let us – or me, rubber gloves and paper towels – take their mousy prizes and toss them out the back door into the yard I never saw anyone in without a raised machete.
Now, Larry is lounging regally just outside the bathroom door. It is his custom to lurk nearby while I shower in case I need rescuing. I sometimes remember he’s a cat when I turn around in the shower and see him perched on the edge of the tub.
Larry: Dear God! Are you injured?
And I always remember he’s a cat when I’ve bumped the shower curtain and he decides I’m prey.
Larry: Take that! And that! When will you change your soapy ways?
I am relieved when my eyes meet Larry’s and then follow his to the tiny corpse near his front paws. Aha, the painful struggle of the mousy is at an end. I step out of the tub, towel dry and hang up the towel. When I turn back to look at the cat, his trophy has moved a few inches but it’s still tits-up with little x’s over its eyes. Larry looks at me. It’s immediately clear to me this is a significant gaze: he is telling me something. I have no idea what the message is until, eyes still locked with mine, Larry takes a bite.
My mind has been boggled now for just over forty-five minutes and there is no power on earth that could force me to step over Larry while he is gnawing on the still warm corpse of the interloper. I can’t even scream I’m so grossed out but it doesn’t matter because I take one horrified look and reach for my Dove Original Clean Solid Antiperspirant. The situation that couldn’t possibly get any worse gets a lot worse when the sound of Larry eating what he just caught becomes the sound of tiny crunching bones.
I dab under my eyes with Origins No Puffery, moisturize my face with Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF15, brush my teeth with Maximum Strength Sensodyne Extra Whitening with Fluoride, apply Philosophy Kiss Me Clear Very Emollient Lip Balm before painting on Colgate Simply White Clear Whitening Gel. As the crunching continues, I slather my entire body with Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer, spritz on CK1 L’Eau du Toilette and apply an entire Bare Minerals light/fairly light tones kit with four components, add eye shadow I have lying around and a brown eyeliner. When the crunching stops I force myself to look at the cat. He licks his lips and gives me the kitty come-hither look.
Larry: How about some sugar?
Tata: Not on your life!
I leap over him and around the corner into the bedroom, where I throw on…something…In the hallway, I see there is nothing left of the mousy, not the tail or a foot or a scrap of internal organ. Nothing. I’m so upset I don’t want to go to work and there’s no way I can stay in the apartment. When I get to work, I’m still hyperventillating. My co-workers slap their desks and dab their tears discreetly.
Sister #1 calls because her Spidey sense is tingling. When I pick up the phone she skips past hello and says, “What happened?” This is not the first time I tell her Larry’s thrown a banquet and invited someone delicious, but it’s the first time a cat story makes her laugh so hard she nearly drives her SUV into a ditch.
Should I feel uneasy when Larry stares into that closet, searching the darkness for the reflective eyes of another snack?