Tuesday, July 22, 2003

The Great Pumpkin…

My first grade teacher Mrs. McM!nn used to have a gray tabby cat named Critter. Critter came to Show-and-Tell. On occasion, I used to visit Critter (as Mrs. McM!nn lived first up the cul-de-sac and then down the street), and my mom would accompany me for the visit, as her favorite childhood pet was a grey tabby cat named, um, Tabby, actually- who very, very, very unfortunately met the same end as the cat featured in the Very Horrible Car Story. (See below.)

Sigh…. ANYWAY, in the summer I was 7, Mrs. McM!nn asked me if I would like to take care of Critter when she was on vacation. I couldn’t believe my luck. For something like $3 a day, I got to feed her cat and bring in the newspaper and have unlimited petting time.

I was never allowed to get a cat when I was a kid. Some trivial little thing about my dad’s eyes swelling shut. Oh, and my sister would have had to be hooked up to an oxygen tank because of her allergies, ya know…. The closest I ever got was having one of the strays I used to feed brought into the house to catch a mouse. Never mind that the gerbils we had got loose every other day, and my mom would have to close us all in the playroom and tell us not to scream as she tried to scoop up the escapees up with a Maxwell House coffee can. Of course, the gerbil would eventually make a break for it, and my mom would be the one screaming as she leapt over a hobby horse while trying to catch a the runaway rodent, who almost always ended up cowering behind an Easy-Bake Oven and a Barbie Townhouse that leaned more than the Tower of Pisa until my dad got home from school. Anyway, the stray cat never did catch that mouse because he freaked out and got stuck behind the piano and therefore had to go back outside. He hung around until the neighbors with the Demonic Poodle hauled him away. I really, really hope they took him to a nice farm, like they said they did. Allow me this illusion, people.

But I digress. So I was trying to feed Critter, but he was purring and weaving in and around my ankles as I put the mail and keys on the table. But all the weaving and purring made it hard to walk, and I was trying desperately to get to the can opener- when WHAM! Critter jumped onto my leg and bit me! He broke the skin, which scared the crap out of me, watching the trickle of blood roll down from a few inches below the hemline of my flourescent “Jams” into my shiny pink jellies (isn’t this story so much better now that you know this was the summer of jams and jellies? Pebbles used to get stuck in the diamond-shaped spaces that made up the heel of those things. Damn, they hurt your feet, didn’t they?)

So I ran out of Mrs. McM!nn’s house, leaving the keys inside, but making sure the door was unlocked. I left my pink scooter, (chosen mode of transportation for those of us in the Easter Seal “balance problem”classes; I swear modern bike helmet laws were passed for kids like me), in her driveway and ran home screeching and bleeding.

My mom, bless her, took care of Critter for rest of the week, after mistakenly believing I had accidentally locked the keys in the neighbor’s house, and drove pell-mell down the street, and as I recall, driving over the scooter in the driveway. (I needed to learn to ride a bike at some point anyway.) I think Critter tried to take a chunk out of her, too, and that was the last time I looked after a neighbor’s cat.

Until Pumpkin. (Dunt, dunt duuuuuh). My Downstairs Neighbor (DN) has a big orange tiger cat named Pumpkin. Pumpkin gets left alone in her apartment a lot, with only her collection of Fancy Collector’s Edition Barbies (kept in illuminated curio cabinets) for company. He seems perfectly nice, although sometimes a little grouchy, when you meet him on the stairs. When my other neighbors, who are in the process of moving out, took care of Pumpkin, he was always perfectly sweet to me, though they always said he gets “a little violent on occasion.” Huh. But Alissa met Pumpkin on the stairs, and he was an angel. Stephen met him when he was roaming around the Other Neighbors’ apartment when DN was on vacation in June, and he was okay.

But then, I tried to go in and feed him. It was like Critter 2: Revenge of the Hell-Cat. Hissing. Yowling. Then flopping on his stomach for a tummy rub and purring, and on the fifth stroke swiping and spitting like you tried to light him on fire. At one point when Stephen was here last weekend, I almost grabbed DN’s broom and tapped SOS on her ceiling (my floor) so he would come down and create a diversion so I could run for it.

But I guess I can’t blame Pumpkin. DN’s six Ballerina Barbies are illuminated in their display case 24 hours a day, and that just can’t be a good thing for any living thing. If only they had a Townhouse I could cower behind.

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