Kismet on a sunny day, tormented by the lizard (actually a gecko, I think) clinging to the outside of the back door.
The thing I note about the death of Nelson Mandela is that as expected as it has been, as protracted as his illness has been, my heart seemed to stop all the same when I heard the news. I…was so sure he would triumph over death as he had over all else.
I feel as though I’m still waiting for my heart to start beating again.
My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.
This has been the opening paragraph of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (1962). This book has always bothered me…in a good way…more or less…I suppose. I rather like this 2009 review of the novel by Joyce Carol Oates published in the New York Review of Books; you might as well.
Leon is the largest of our seven cats, a big orange stripey teenager of a feline. While he gets along fairly well with the ladycats of the household – Venice, for example, can put him in his place pretty quickly – Leon has always been rather aggressive towards males Baxter and Jack. In order to avoid daily battles for dominance, M and I keep Leon separated from the other boys. In our St. Louis house, this meant confining Leon to his room upstairs during the day and then swapping him for Baxter and Jack at night. Here in Austin, the house is so arranged that the forward wing (living room, dining room, kitchen) can be easily closed off from the rear wing (bedrooms, bathrooms, office). This allows for a more even distribution of space; Leon no longer has to be confined to a single room.
This was good luck for us…so, yeah, of course, I decided to press it. The idea of one big happy kitty family prompted me to try having Baxter and Leon ‘out’ at the same time for brief periods. Usually one of them was drowsy while the other was prowling about. As long as neither of them spoke to the other, they seemed to pretty much ignore each other, which was the same as peaceful coexistence so far and M and I were concerned.
Three weeks ago, I decided to introduce Jack into the experiment. While he drowsed in a basket elevated on a shelf, I let Leon into the forward wing of the house. This worked well for all of three seconds, because Jack 1) is a light sleeper, 2) has exceptional hearing, even for a cat, and 3) utterly hates Leon. The moment he realized that the orange usurper was nearby, he began to growl, which prompted Leon to respond in kind, which brought the experiment to a screeching halt. Before Leon could gather himself for an attack, I snatched him up with my left hand. What that did, mostly, was to redirect Leon’s wrath toward me. He grabbed hold of my forearm with all claws on all paws and sank his teeth as far as they would go. My first thought was ‘FUCK’; my second thought was ‘Well, at least I’m not likely to drop him.’ I walked down the hallway and into the second wing with Leon adorning my left arm like the world’s most hostile accessory, detached him, then closed the door.
Leon forgave me almost immediately; he always does. I forgave him for being a cat, but still had to apply several bandages thusly:
I’d been nipped and scratched by cats any number of times in the past, but had never sustained the kind of puncture wounds delivered by Leon. I washed the bite wounds, smeared the standard over-the-counter triple antibiotic ointment on them, applied bandages, and considered the matter closed.
The next day I came down with a fever. Also, my arm hurt.
The day after that, the fever broke. My arm, however, hurt even more. The skin in the area of the bites was reddened, and tight.
The third day after was more of the same, and I finally got it in my head that there was more than soreness going on. Off to the nearby clinic where I was prescribed amoxicillin/clavulanic acid. A few days later, the infection began its visible retreat, and has since been routed entirely.
I was lucky compared to other folks who, like myself, dithered and delayed regarding cat bites. Let me be a dire warning to you all.
As for Leon: Well, I haven’t tried introducing him to the other boy cats since, and likely won’t do so again soon. I do spend more time with him than I did before. It’s as though the bite has made me more fond of Leon. Don’t ask me to explain.
Add bitey: Damn me, I forgot to mention the official aspect of this story. Well, as you might suspect, animal bites treated in a medical facility must be reported as such to the authorities. This meant additional paperwork for me at the clinic (I was both the Victim and the Owner of the Animal) which was filed with Travis County Animal Control Services. An official came out to make sure that Leon was up to date with his shots (all our cats were caught up on vaccinations before the move to Texas, and fortunately we could prove it with paperwork) and to verify that Leon would be kept indoors for X number of days. Another officer came by after X number of days to verify that Leon was still indoors and not foaming at the mouth, and that I had not died or something.
Leon was clearly made nervous by the official visits – he’s that way with all strangers – but I assured him that after all we’ve been though, I wasn’t about to give him up to the Man. He seemed to appreciate that.
HEY, GUYS! GUYS!!
Er, ahem: Guys!
Remember when I mentioned something a while back, more or less in passing, about M and I and seven cats moving to Austin?
Well, yeah. We totally did that.
We’ve been in Austin, Texas for about a month and a half, the nine of us, and if I’ve been tardy in announcing it here, it’s because it usually takes me this long for me to catch up to current events. I’ll make up for it in the days to come, though.