Saturday, October 29, 2011

Meeting Snow

Clem was awakened by the sound of rain this morning.  She loved rain.  It made lovely patterns on the windows when the wind was blowing at the house, and the lake looked so interesting in the rain.  Sometimes it looked like it had dimples, and other times it looked almost like fresh whipped cream with peaks that came and went very quickly.  

This morning’s rain was the dimply kind.  It wasn’t raining very hard.  Clem thought the yarn lady would like to see it, so she stood on the yarn lady’s chest and stared at her until she woke up.  She wasn’t as thrilled with the rain as Clem was, or the time of day considering it was only 6:30 in the morning.  It was dark enough that she had to turn on the lights just to get around without falling over.  

The yarn lady went out early, much earlier than she usually did and she didn’t come back for the longest time.  Clem amused herself with her yarn balls and the lovely mousy that a lady had sent that hadn’t even met them.  It was a very good mousy, because it was heavy and when she whacked it, the mousy flew across the room.  From time to time Clem checked on the rain, just to see what it looked like on the lake.  

As the morning progressed, the rain started, well, changing.  It was partly rain, but partly fuzz balls, except that when they hit the ground they disappeared.  Clem watched that for a long time, trying to figure out where the fuzz balls went.  Then suddenly the window rattled with the sound of something hitting it.  Clem jumped down and hid under the couch, waiting for it to break.  She’d seen things on the television, and she thought maybe it was gunshots, but who would be shooting the window?  There was no one out there, and come to think of it, it was hitting all the windows in the front of the house; the three big windows, the door and even the window in the front bedroom.  It didn’t get any louder and the windows didn’t break so Clem slowly eased out from under the couch to investigate.  She jumped up on the table in front of the window (her favorite perch for watching the birds on the lake).  Yup, something was hitting the windows and they looked kind of like the rain drops.  Unlike the fuzz balls, though, these things were still sitting on the ground and looked like little white rocks.  After a few minutes, the rocks stopped falling out of the sky and hitting the window and the fuzz balls came back.   Clem just sat there and watched.  What was going on here?

By the time the yarn lady got home, there were some fuzz balls on the grass.  None were on the sidewalk, but there were a whole lot of them on the garage roof.  It almost looked like someone had put a thin white blankie on the roof, except that it was thin at the edges and not even.  The yarn lady came in with her hood over her head, carrying her knitting bag and a few oddments.  “We’re in for some real weather today, Clem.  So far this morning we’ve had rain, hail and snow.  Or was that sleet?  Anyway, even though it’s not Halloween yet I think we’re going to have a taste of winter today.”  

She went into the bedroom and emerged in a few minutes wearing her heavy pajamas and bootie slippers that went halfway to her knees.  She sat on the couch and wrapped herself in the throw blanket.  “It is so cold out there, Clementine.  Be glad that you are an indoor cat.  You’d be wet and chilled to the bone in an instant.”  

Clem didn’t even want to think about that.  She’d gotten wet once, well part of her had.  The yarn lady had left some dishes soaking in the sink, and she’d dipped her paw in the sink and it was horrible.  And that had been warm water, so she couldn’t imagine how it would feel to have cold wet fur all over her body.  Maybe it was good to be an indoor cat.  She snuggled down next to the yarn lady as she started to write a letter and quickly dozed off.  

When she awoke it was late afternoon and the yarn lady was washing dishes in the kitchen.  Clem brought her the mousy and they had a rollicking game of fetch.  The yarn lady was good about throwing the mousy or yarnballs in different directions.  Clem had to keep a sharp eye out and listen for where it landed, because sometimes she’d get faked out and the yarn lady would throw it in a totally different direction than what Clem expected.  

Clem brought the mousy back one time to find the yarn lady looking out the kitchen window at the garage roof.  “It’s totally snowing now, Clem, but thank God it’s only sticking on things like the roof and the grass.  If we’re lucky it won’t stick on the roads at all, because I need to be able to get out tomorrow, and I don’t do snow.”  Clem jumped up on the little farmhouse table and looked out the window too.  The blanket on the garage roof was much thicker now.  Snow.  That’s what it was called.   So those fuzz balls were snow.  The ones coming down now were much smaller than the huge ones she’d seen this morning.

The yarn lady went outside for a moment and came back with a handful of something that she put on the kitchen floor.  “Clementine, meet snow.  Snow, this is Clementine.”  

Clem looked at the wet piles of what she guessed was snow on the floor and said, “Hello, snow.  Would you like to play?”  She figured the yarn lady had brought the snow in so they could play together, especially since she’d introduced them.  Clem sat there for a minute or so, but the snow didn’t say anything.  It did get a little bit more watery, though.

Circling, Clem looked at the snow from all sides, as she continued to talk to it.  “Well, do you want to play with me?  What games do you know?  My favorite is fetch, but I like pounce too.  And hide.  Do you want to hide and I’ll come find you?”  The snow still didn’t answer and it didn’t look like it was going to do much of anything.  She reached out a paw and patted it.  COLD!!  Her paw pad was cold and wet.  Oh, the yarn lady was right.  She’d hate to have snow fuzz balls fall on her fur if it felt like this stuff.  She stretched her neck to sniff it and got a noseful of cold wet snow.  Horrible.  

“Don’t you have any decency, snow?  How can you be so cold and silent?”  The yarn lady heard this as the kind of angry noises cats make when they see a cat they don’t like.  She reached down to scratch Clem’s head.  

“It’s just snow, kiddo.  Get used to seeing it, as if we get snow before Halloween it usually means we’re going to see a lot of it.  I won’t bring it in the house every time though.  Well, at least I won’t do it on purpose.  I probably should get a rug for the door by the slider if I don’t want to track it everywhere.  Oh Clem, snow is pretty, but it can be a real pain.”  With that the yarn lady grabbed a towel, collected the snow and dumped it in the sink.  Where it had started to melt on the floor she wiped it up with the towel.  Clem jumped on the counter and stared at the snow in the sink.  It didn’t seem to mind being grabbed like that and tossed in the sink, and as she continued to stare at it, it gradually began to melt and the water seeped down the drain.  

“All gone, Clem.  It’s melted.  From now on let’s leave it outside where it belongs.”  The yarn lady went into the living room and started knitting.  Clem continued to watch the sink as the snow finished melting, and then went to the back window so she could watch it as it continued to come down.  It occurred to her that snow might just be another kind of rain.  She’d already figured out that rain was water in little pieces, so snow was just a different kind of pieces of water.  Probably the little white rocks that had hit the windows were still another kind of water piece, as they weren’t on the ground anymore.  As she made these conclusions, Clem felt proud of herself.  She was not only growing up, she was growing smart.  Who knows what she’d be like by the time she was a totally grown up cat?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Crisis of Faith

Clem was becoming a grown up cat.  That didn’t mean that she didn’t like to play fetch or pounce games, but she felt that her mind was becoming, well more mature.  That was a good thing mostly.  She could figure out how to get the yarn lady to give her treats (scratch on her scratching board rather than on the furniture, she could find her way out of the duvet cover if she got stuck at the wrong end and she didn’t get scared as much when the yarn lady went out. 

Today, though she’d discovered the downside of growing up.  While playing fetch with the yarn lady, one of the yarn balls came unraveled.  Clem was mortified.  That was her sister, Tamsin.  If Tamsin could come unraveled, could she, Clem also come unraveled?  Maybe if one of her whiskers came lose, maybe it would pull out the other whiskers, and then even her fur?  Would she be a naked cat, or worse, would her insides also come unraveled?  She wasn’t too sure what was inside her skin…well honestly she had no idea what was inside her skin.  She knew that food went in one end and poo came out the other, but maybe it was all connected and could just come apart if she had one loose whisker. 

Clem brought the tiny center of Tamsin that remained to the yarn lady, with the rest of the yarn trailing from the kitchen.  She dropped it on the yarn lady’s lap and sat down to plead for her to heal Tamsin.  “Please, oh, please, you have to make Tamsin better.  Can you do something to heal her?  I’ve seen you use band-aids when you cut yourself, but I think Tamsin is beyond band-aid help.  You’ve got to make Tamsin better, I love her!”

The yarn lady looked at Clem.  She’d never seen her quite this upset before.  She was pacing and meowing piteously, and all over a yarn ball.  It wasn’t like she couldn’t fix it.  She’d fixed most of them by this time, as they tended to unravel, even if she threaded the end through the middle of the ball after knotting it off.  She picked up Clem and cradled her in her arms.  “It’s just a yarn ball, Clementine.  I can rewind it – I do it all the time.  You’re tough on them you know.  And if the yarn is too damaged, I can make you a new one, just like I did this one.  It’s just scrap yarn left over from other projects.”

Clem looked at her in horror.  This was not just scrap yarn, it was her sister.  She remembered the day when there was the terrible storm and she’d gathered all her family and friends around her, and knew that they would protect her.  There’d been Tamsin and Archie, her brother and sister, Hettie, Tinker, Babs and Mehetabel.  And the giant pompom that was Mommy.  They’d all sat together through the terrible lightening and thunder and kept each other from getting scared. 

The yarn lady patiently rewound the yarn ball, speaking calmly to Clem the whole time.  “You know, I made these for you when you first came to live with me, months ago.  I didn’t have any cat toys, but I had lots of yarn, so after we came home, I found a couple skeins of leftover yarn and wound up a bunch of these.  It was so funny – some days I’d find you surrounded by them if I’d been out for a long time.  I guess it’s because you’re an only cat.  You needed to pretend to have some friends.”  She finished up the repair by taking a long sharp leather needle with a large eye and running the end through the center of the yarn ball.  “There you go.  All fixed.”  She tossed it into the kitchen, and Clem went chasing after it. 

Instead of immediately bringing it back for the yarn lady to throw again, Clem sat down next to it and patted it very carefully.  “Tamsin, are you okay?”  The yarn ball didn’t answer.  It just sat there.  Clem patted it again, and this time it got stuck on one of her claws, but it still didn’t say anything. 

Clem sat back and looked at it carefully.  She then made a sweep of the house, finding the rest of the yarn balls. She found Archie and Babs, but there was no sign of the rest.  On the other hand, there were several yarn balls in various colors that didn’t match her friends.  Thinking back, she remembered that some days the yarn lady would give her a new yarn ball.  At the time she hadn’t though anything of it.

She sat them all together in the bedroom on the other side of the bed, where she wouldn’t be easily observed by the yarn lady.  If she was going to have a serious conversation with her friends she didn’t want any witnesses.  “Okay.  What are you all?  Archie, Tamsin – talk to me.  Please.  Just say something.  And the rest of you – what do you have to say for yourselves?”  The yarn balls just sat there.  They didn’t move and they certainly didn’t say anything. 

Clem lay down and looked at them and thought deep thoughts.  When was the last time she’d had a conversation with one of them?  She didn’t really remember.  They played together, sure.  Clem would bring one to the yarn lady and she’d scoot them across the floor so that Clem could chase them.  It was her all-time favorite thing to do.   She talked to them.  She’d tell them about her day, or about something yummy the yarn lady had made, but come to think of it, they didn’t talk back. 

Thinking back to the day of the thunderstorm, she remembered something.  Archie had reminded her of her real cat brother because he had a long tail.  Tamsin and Archie were real cats, and yarn balls weren’t cats.  They were just, well, yarn balls.  Loneliness had made her make up friends for herself.  These really were just yarn balls.  Fun things to play with, but not her siblings and friends from the shelter. 

The yarn lady was sitting on the couch reading, and Clem climbed up next to her and wormed her way onto her lap.  This one was real.  She fed her and loved her and cleaned her litter box, and scratched her head very gently, as she was doing right now.  Clem sighed.  Growing up wasn’t necessarily fun.