Three cats, two dogs and a fish. That's just too many pets for one person. So, when we were splitting the sheets, I made the spousal forfeiture take his damn fish with him. Good riddance.
Last week I had to have Fred put to sleep. He was an old cat - all of mine are. But he was a tough old bird. So tough, in fact, that the vet prepared a second injection because his little shoe leather heart just wouldn't stop beating. In the end, he didn't have to administer it.
That left me with one cat and two dogs.
The math seem a little off to you? You'd be right. The remaining cat is He With No Name, a Maine Coon tuxedo cat who is very easy to live with. The other minus?
If you have a very good memory, you will know that she is a vengeful and cunning creature whose name didn't originally have it's modifier. She earned that "Evil" bit, fair and square. We didn't see it coming when a friend first brought her to us, tiny and half-starved. Her mother, a stray, had been killed by a car and the friend thought the spouse needed a cat to keep him company while going through chemotherapy. Granted, we already had a couple of cats, but what's one more, right?
Over the years, Evil Steve has taken the occasional sabbatical. We've never known where she has gone, but every year or two she will disappear for a couple of weeks. Once or twice, since we moved to "the 'burbs" she's been gone for as much as a month. She always returns, just when we've written her off, looking fresh, clean and obviously well fed.
I haven't seen her since June. That was over four months ago. Obviously, she's coyote fodder.
So, I buried Fred.
Over the past few days I marveled at how little Fred must have been eating, as He With No Name is still plowing right through the crunchy chunks pretty much as heavily as ever.
This morning, after being awoken at an ungodly hour by bored dogs wanting out of their crate, I crawled back into bed where I bemoaned being awake while watching an episode of Midsomer Murders. Then I stumbled into the kitchen and fed the foul beasties. I perused the insides of the refrigerator, then cursed myself for not buying groceries yesterday afternoon as I'd intended.
No food means venturing out for a breakfast burrito. I tried calling the local joint, but I couldn't find their number. I had no plans to become socially presentable enough to go inside and wait while they cooked the food, so I called the next closest place, a little drive-through in the County Seat, about 10 miles away. All the while, the dogs munched and snarfled in their little metal pans. He With No Name was still sipping from the bathroom faucet on the other end of the house.
Just as I opened the dishwasher to try to do something productive before making the breakfast run, I heard a plaintive yowl. It came from right behind me.
I whirled. Nothing there. The dogs never batted an eyelash, just kept licking their empty bowls.
Admittedly my first thought, one of those things that pop out of the primordial ooze of the deeper brain, was a flash back to that second, unused injection the vet held in his hand while listening to Fred's diminishing heartbeat. The second thought was a laughing realization that there was a cat in heat outside my kitchen window, probably sitting on the ledge, just out of sight. I went outside to shoo her away.
Inside the dogs were still completely unperturbed, other than to be a bit miffed at the limited portion size provided their indiscriminate palates. I started to wonder about auditory hallucinations, as one does. I'd had a visual hallucination once, due to medication, and maybe...
The yowl. A second time.
The dogs did not react.
I slammed the dishwasher shut and started throwing open doors on the lower cabinets. I pulled cleaning supplies, various seldom-used gadgets (Why do I own both a food steamer and a rice pot? And isn't that a huge wok!) and some pots and pans out onto the kitchen floor. And then I saw her.
Evil Steve is back.
Steve had gone crazy before she left. I'd attributed it to kitty Alzheimer's since she's older than she should be. Evidently her vacation hasn't cured her because now she won't come out of the cabinet. She seems to be in fine condition, once again. Her fur is soft, at least in that one little spot my fingers brushed before she skittered out of reach. Her eyes are bright, as least when they are staring malevolently at me from Hades' Window Sill. Her voice is in FINE form, obviously. And I think maybe, just maybe, she's got on a new flea collar.
And she's still in the cabinet.
The dogs now care about this. They care a lot. So much caring. So much.
Everything is now back in the cabinets. (What am I going to do with that wok?) I guess Steve's going to stay put. At least she's stopped with the vocal lament bit.
I'd been considering getting some chickens. Maybe I'll wait on that.