I should I really should be calling my friends in New Orleans, to see if they're okay. Are they bugging out, or staying put? I know they're the stay put type. But I just can't help these pictures in my head of them being tossed around, picked up and smashed down. Yes, I know tornadoes are not hurricanes, but I just can't reason with the pictures in my head.
But avoidance, really, that's my best feature. So instead of calling, to hear them say they're staying put, they're riding it out, to hear them not answer because cell towers are already down, or overloaded, to talk to them and not know anything more than I did before talking to them, instead of that, I do other things I'd been avoiding for months, things that really just needed a bigger avoidance to move me.
So, I bathed the cats. We, that is, Mr. Billy and I, bathed the cats. I had this idea it wouldn't be so difficult. I'd bathed them before. I don't remember it being so bad.
But then, every time I'd bathed them before, it had been immediately after a trip in their cat carriers. They were already traumatized, already freaky and submissive with fear. And, they'd soiled themselves in their carriers. So they were almost as eager as I for a little cleanliness.
But never before had I plucked them from a laze in the sun, comfortably curled in the papasan, looking up at me with trusting, lazily blinking eyes.
When I say them, I'm really referring to the Big Cat, Mario. Our Problem Child. He's a sweet kitty, really, but he was a rescued cat, a street kitty, a marauder in the rougher quarters of Honolulu, a killer of geckoes and dwarf pigeons, abused and abandoned. Stray cats are not loved in Hawaii, being overburdened with them, not being much a part of the culture as house pets. We can only imagine how he must have been treated before being scooped up by the Humane Society and handed over to us, big-eyed, skittish, ducking and flinching every time we lifted a hand to pet him.
Years of patience have mellowed Mario. He's handsome and loving, now, on his own terms. He never extends his claws (unlike Blanche, the little black cat, who doesn't seem to know how to retract hers), never bites. Never scratches, that is, until yesterday.
Mario must be edging up to twenty pounds, now. Not terribly fat, but long and tall and solid all over. I pick him up, and he curls his front paws up submissively. This will be easy, I think.
Mr. Billy has the sink ready, and I carry him over, lift him into the sink. He expands, twice, three times his original size, grows extra legs and paws, reaching out everywhere, bracing against the counter, I wrestle him into the sink and he explodes out, I hold on grimly, turning into my parents, "this is for your own good," I tell Mr. Billy to fill the cup with water, I have an idea of pouring it over him, so far only his paws are wet, and while Mr. Billy's hands are busy with the faucet and the cup, Mario's eyes are rolling madly, he spies an exit, he takes it, a wet, desperate cat - suddenly the size of a tiger - is climbing my chest, he's having flashbacks and just trying to get traction, he's up my chest and on my shoulders and thunk! onto the floor and gone.
Mr. Billy pulls my shirt away, his eyes big as he looks at my skin. Are you okay? he wants to know. I nod, quickly. Should we give up? I ask him.
Mr. Billy, I think, would love to call it off, but he's seen me like this before. He squeezes my hand and goes to find Mario.
This time Mr. Billy holds his front legs while I bathe him, Mario's whole body tense and shuddering, he yowls piteously, loudly, I'm killing him with all this water, but we get the job done, more or less, his tail like a bone, wet fur clinging, I wrap him up in a big towel and loose him to set to work on the other cat.
She struggles, but no yowling, no climbing my chest like a tree, and it's over soon enough. I stand at the counter, shaking and laughing.
My shirt is sticking to my chest. I'm bleeding right through it.
I pull it off in front of the mirror. Three long red lines running up my chest. Another grouping on my right breast, another on my left ribs. You can trace the shape of big paws on my back and shoulders. They're all raised and bleeding, welting up. I expect bruises to form around them soon.
I look like I've been in a bar fight. I consider swearing off open necklines while they heal, but a look at my wardrobe tells me that's impractical. I'm not wearing turtlenecks in August.
Instead, Mr. Billy and I are working on some good stories to explain the scratches. I welcome suggestions.
Meanwhile, I still haven't called our New Orleans friends.