A new blogging challenge has started, with weekly topics suggested by bloggers in the group.
The topic for the first week of February: crimes, misdemeanors, mischievous acts, acts of revenge, revenge fantasies, or felony murders. Any length. Puns or other forms of wordplay optional. Killing adjectives prohibited, unless that’s part of some twisted revenge fantasy.
Cats understand the purpose of revenge, purrfectly.*
I once knew a cat named Emily who lived with two lovely humans in a gorgeous apartment in Nyack, New York. Emily, a neat-pawed tabby, also lived with another feline companion whose name has not survived in my memory. This other cat, obviously, lacked the certain qualities that made Emily indelible: her dramatic flare for creating horror, her nonchalance in the face of death, and her impeccable acts of revenge.
The apartment was one-half of the second floor of an old Tudor-style mansion. I remember the rooms filled with light during the days, the sun streaming through little diamonds of glass. At one end of the apartment, just off the living room, a French door opened onto a stone balcony. The bedrooms were at the opposite end, down a long hallway. Emily’s people owned beautiful art, mostly paintings, and had a knack for collecting and displaying interesting objects. Plants climbed around the window frames and curled into the dark places. In the living room there were no curtains, so the effect was airy, almost like a conservatory room, and a glorious place for cats to thrive.
I spent one summer apartment-sitting, and theoretically cat-sitting, for Emily’s people. I had never lived around architectural beauty, having been raised in a house coated with sheet paneling and lowered, Styrofoam ceilings. The plaster walls and dark ceiling timbers, the iron leading the windowpanes together, the warm, polished wood floors – this apartment woke some part of my soul to the possibility of living within beauty, rather than outside of it. I spent the whole summer wandering about the rooms as if in a museum, barely daring to touch and worried that I would inevitably break something.
Emily watched, and didn’t care one bit.
I came in one night from my horrible summer job at a small diner attached to a motel. It was the kind of place with one “regular” guy hanging out at the counter drinking coffee, poking fun at “the girls” working there, while few actual customers straggled in during the shift. I had no car, so I had walked up from downtown Nyack to the residential neighborhoods in the dark. The odor of grease followed me like a shadow. When I opened the apartment door, Emily announced she had never been fed. She stalked ahead of me down the hallway to the kitchen, her tail straight up like a flag over her back. I emptied cat food into the small bowls, and then made my own uninspired late supper. I carried my plate into the living room, to the small table against the wall. A modernist painting hung over the table, a hollow-eyed Madonna and child inspired by exhausted 20th century pessimism. I understood her sad despair, this poor woman. I sat with the wall to my shoulder and opened a book to read while eating.
Emily jumped onto the table and watched me, then looked at the wall, her gaze slipping over my head a bit now and then. She licked her paws, carefully. She looked at my plate and then let her eyes drift up over my head again. She stared. Her golden eyes widened. Everything about her small cat body stiffened; she quaked slightly, and her nose twitched. I could not take my eyes off this obviously terrified creature. There was something behind me, just over my shoulder, that had reduced this normally self-assured cat to a rictus of fear. Suddenly I was terribly aware that there were no curtains on these windows and that each small dark pane was open to the eyes of all evil hosts to look in, to see me, bathed in a small, silly little bit of weak light. I could die in this light, reeking still of fry oil and cigarettes. Slowly I gathered my strength and turned my head, ever so slightly.
Just the Madonna and her lifeless child. Nothing else was behind me.
When I turned back, Emily yawned and washed her paws again.
Lesson learned: It is best to not give way to the terrors a cat can dream up.
When Emily’s people returned, I stayed on for a couple of weeks. I thought I was extending my visit because they would enjoy my company. In fact, I was unable to leave their beautiful home just yet and return to my uglier world. The fact that I had no responsibility for Emily was a great relief.
Then one Saturday morning, Emily attacked the leg of a chair with her claws, and her human sprayed her with the water bottle. This was normal behavior by both. Emily would threaten total destruction, and the humans would tell her “not now” in the most nonlethal way possible. Usually this resolved by Emily hiding out in a cubby hole for a bit, maybe a shoe might be attacked, but then treats would be given and all forgotten. Only this Saturday was anything but usual. Something burrowed down into Emily’s soul that day and awoke a litany of wrongs suffered at the hands of her people. She could not forget and chew on a shoelace. Plans had to be made.
I heard his voice echoing down the hall from their bedroom. These were not people who yelled. I heard him swearing all the way as he stormed toward the living room. The Madonna heard him. Her child almost woke. He clutched Emily in his arms, and she was yowling. He threw open the French door and tossed Emily right off the end of the balcony into a tree. He was not a storming sort of person, nor a throwing a cat into a tree sort of person. Emily, totally unhurt, raged from the center of a Hemlock. Her human raged back.
Emily’s revenge had been two-fold. She had vomited a hairball into a nice pair of wing-tipped shoes. But more importantly, she had deposited the most singularly smelly poop to the center of a pillow on her humans’ bed. This cat had monstrous skill, and an apparent ability to control her bodily functions beyond normal cat capabilities.
Lesson learned: Revenge might have been invented by cats.
And yes, she survived the toss into the tree. She climbed down and met her humans at the door; then she stalked up the stairs with her tail waving over her back. She strolled through the apartment as if nothing had conspired, no yelling, no yowling. Had she met Death himself right then, she would have just dismissed him with a flick of an ear. She sat in the beautiful squares of sunlight that fell through old windows, and her golden eyes blinked slowly as she purred.
*That was intended, by the way, just to show that I can stoop to that lowest of verbal humor, the pun. I usually rely on sarcasm, irony, or absurdity to get a laugh. But I married a punster, and therefore find my life chock full of puns. And groans.