As I sit beside my husband horrified by the current debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump another debate date comes to my mind. One where there was a bit more respect given to the history and the process of electing a president of United States. But this story is not quite about the debates.
I felt like I was in some bizarre adaptation of Tom Sawyer, where I played the reluctant Aunt Polly and my cat took the role of Tom.
It was a Wednesday and I remember that vividly because my kids were not home. They had a sleep over at my parents-in-law (God bless them) thus giving my husband and I a mid-week break. I love our date-nights. Don’t get me wrong – my kids are everything to me, but it’s nice to get away once in a while and try to remember why my husband and I tried this whole matrimony thing in the first place.
That particular Wednesday was not quite what our date-nights tend to be, because it also happened to be the night of the first presidential debate. I do not really follow politics. I mean, I have my liberal, left-wing opinions. I try to be a responsible citizen and vote in every election. But after all that’s said and done, I find politicians hard to watch. The candidates usually have their talking points and no matter how the moderator tries to steer the politicians away from those points… But I am getting off topic.
We are Canadian. The American presidential debates shouldn’t matter that much, but to my “politically savvy” husband they do: “We’re right next door to them! Don’t you see? What they do, who they elect… It can really impact us!”
“Yes, honey!” It’s easier and, for that matter, better for our marriage to just agree on this one point and move on. Compromise. I am getting better at it after more than 10 years of cohabitation.
The debates were streamed live and my hubby went upstairs to watch it on the computer from the office. I found that the kitchen was already tidied-up after dinner and that I had time to myself. I just had to get the cat into the house and I’d be set to curl up with a nice book on the couch for an hour or so.
Scooter is a domestic short-haired white cat with back tail and a few black spots over his ears. He is sweet, dumb as a doorknob and is incredible with our kids. He keeps the kids company when I am cooking dinner as a faithful babysitter. He lets the youngest dress him up as a princess and he doesn’t mind. He doesn’t bite or use his claws when his tail is being pulled. When it gets too much or too loud he just gets up and leaves the room for about a minute to get a snack and then he is back to lay atop of wooden train tracks and play Catzilla as my oldest builds a Lego metropolis around him.
We let the cats wonder in the backyard, but they never leave the fenced-in area. The fence is more than six feet tall and most visiting cats have trouble scaling it. Ours, because we don’t let them on counters and tables in the house, don’t really have a way to practice their jumping abilities, so they stay inside the fence. Scooter has a few favorite hiding spots. He polices “his” back yard with an enthusiasm of a guard dog. He catches trespassing mice, frogs and birds. Hisses and fights with neighboring cats that might come for a visit. And he is easy to spot in the dark because of his coloring. That Wednesday I didn’t see him.
“Damn you, cat!” I pulled on a raincoat over my pajamas and stuck my bare feet into sneakers. Scooter was not in the back yard. His usual hiding spots were empty. Maybe my hubby let him in without me knowing about it?
“D, did you let Scooter in?”
“The cat. Did you let him into the house?”
“No, he’s been outside since we got home. Did you look behind the blackcurrant bush or under the BBQ cover?”
“Yes! He is not in the backyard!”
“I am trying to watch the debate here!”
“Never mind, I’ll look again!” After the backyard search proves futile I decided that an in-house exploration is in order. Our other cat, Dusty, keeps me company for that one, so at least I had someone to listen to my frustrations.
“Dusty, it’s just you and me, pal! Do you know where your brother is hiding?” Dusty answered with a purr, he bumps his face on my leg, and follows me around like a shadow all over the house as I search under the beds, in the bathtubs and all around my kids’ playthings…
“OK, Dusty-cat, to the basement, my friend!” I start down the stairs and see something on the bottom of the last step. It looks like a dried orange peel that might have been cat puke. On closer inspection I see that it was not a hairball, but in fact, it’s Bill. Dusty makes a sound somewhere between a mew and a screech of a rusted doorjamb and runs off.
Bill was a loach. Our first fish. The kids named him and fed him. They didn’t care about the other fish in the tank because those were small, numerous and died off often, but the orange loach has been with us for almost two years. He was getting really big, too. Our small fish tank couldn’t handle Bill’s sudden, nervous movements and every once in a while the couch would get splashed with water. We were thinking of getting a bigger tank ‘cause getting rid of Bill would have been too traumatic for the kids. On that Wednesday Scooter solved the problem for us.
“D! D, get down here! Scooter ate Bill!!! He ate him and run away!”
“What! You’re being ridiculous!”
“Would you please get down here!”
We are still not quite clear on the details. There is a very small part of the tank that is not covered by the lamp. We think that Bill either jumped out during one of his more elaborate splashes and Scooter got him, or that Scooter, being the resourceful hunter that he is, caught poor Bill out of the tank. Either way the fish that I found was missing an eye, half its head, and was quite dead.
“Did you look outside?”
(No, I was playing follow the leader with Dusty just for the hell of it).
“Of course, I did!”
A few minutes later, I put on the raincoat and sneakers again, this time leaving through the front door armed with a flashlight. We lost Bill. If we loose Scooter too, the kids are going to be devastated. In my head I was already choosing a picture of Scooter with my daughter for a “missing cat” flyer and my son and husband pasting the flyers all over the neighborhood. I am trying hard not to think of the foxes and hawks that live in our area. Or how just a block away there is a rather large and busy street where he can get run over.
I turned the block calling the cat’s name with my husband who is a few houses away from me doing the same and searching with a camping lantern under the cars parked outside on our neighbor’s driveways. I think I was near tears when I saw him. He was walking out of someone’s yard and when he saw me and froze.
“Scoot! Come here, good boy! D, I found him! Scoot! Scooter, come over kitty-cat!”
There is a large SUV standing between the cat and me. He bolts right under it. D swears up a storm and climbs under there to get him. Both looked pretty miserable as we walk home. Scooter hanging by a scruff in D’s hand, and D covered in machine oil and dirt.
At home Scooter is shown the fish and is told “no!” sternly a few times, and then Dusty takes over and grooms him for an hour or so. Cleanliness is next to…
Debates are over. D is really upset. Obama didn’t do well. Looks like the Republicans might have an upper hand and God only know what will happen if they win. I point out that they had a Republican president before and the world didn’t end, but I don’t think D hears me. (This is all taking place in the fall of 2012)
Next day, right after we get the kids from school we go together and get a new loach. He is gray and we name him Phil. A few weeks after that, our fish get a bigger tank with a more secure lid. No cat will ever attack them again. A month or two later Obama wins the re-election and the world is safe from a Republican president for at least four more years. D is happy again. And all is well in our small world of Wednesday date-nights and the rest of the weekdays Catzilla/Princess-Scooter attacks the Metropolis as a wooden railroad winds around the kids’ playroom.