I’m a little tired today for several reasons: two awakenings and eventual parental co-sleeping by three-year old, spousely sound effects resembling an intermittently clogged dental suction device played over a loudspeaker, and of course the nightly symphony from Milo, who feels love only when it’s dark and quiet. Milo brings a lot to the table: excellent facial stripes, an extremely mellow disposition, enjoyment of tummy rubs, etc. But he also has a habit, as many cats do, of checking in with us several times between midnight and dawn, which involves a scenic tour of the bed accompanied by various vocalizations that can be translated roughly as: “I’m here! Hi! Hi! What’s going on? Wanna play cards? Are you sleeping? No? How ‘bout some ear rubs? Fine. Mind if I look around? That side looks comfy -- lemme stroll over this abdomen to check it out. Not bad... it’ll do... Ahhh! [THUD] Hey, this comforter looks suspiciously like bread dough. I hope it’s been kneaded enough... [WOOTEN WOOTEN WOOTEN]. There. Now I can finally relax and get some sleep!”
It could be worse, though. The last cat blew chunks with great frequency. As a teenager, I experienced a deadly combination each night: a chenille bedspread and a cat who had clearly been weaned too young. The result was not only wootening but also copious smurgling (salivating and licking cloth). I understand that this behavior is sort of a compliment, since it means the cat feels as happy and secure as it did when it was a kitten and it kneaded its mother’s abdomen to stimulate the milk let-down reflex so it could nurse. But the drooling part is just going too far. It’s nice to be loved... but if my kids ever try this, they’re going straight to their rooms. Overall, though, I couldn’t ask for a nicer cat. How many other non-comatose cats would let a guy pick them up just in front of the hindquarters and then hang there upside-down in a perfectly relaxed manner while getting his elongated stomach rubbed? For this, I can overlook the bat incident. What’s that, you say?
In the days when we had our own house with a cat door, Milo went out and brought back trophies of various types (usually birds, often still alive), but one evening I heard an oddly disturbing squeaking downstairs. I immediately leapt into action, telling Ben to go downstairs and investigate. After looking at me with narrowed eyes, he went. Silence. Then he came back up. “It’s a bat,” he said. “Ah. Where is it?” I replied. “In the radiator.” This was bad news -- we had cast-iron baseboard radiators with slots about an inch wide. The bat had somehow wriggled in there to escape Milo’s affections. Getting it out again was going to be a real challenge. Ben later told me that he decided quite early on that there was no way he was getting the bat out alive -- he would settle for intact. He needed to kill it as humanely as possible, and he remembered something about car antifreeze being useful for putting small animals to sleep. I do not want to know how he knew this. Didn’t matter, though -- we had no antifreeze in the basement. But by golly, we had WD-40. He sprayed a bunch of that into the radiator, which caused me to comment dryly, “Great. Now he’ll die of cancer in 20 years.” Another narrow-eyed look from Ben. So now we had a slippery and very much alive bat on our hands. Stronger measures were, unfortunately, necessary. Those measures turned out to involve a metal barbecue skewer. I politely excused myself from the scene, went upstairs and turned the music way up. Some time later, Ben appeared, haggard yet triumphant, to report “Mission accomplished.”
We decided that we should contact the town board of health the next day in case the bat had rabies. They asked us to bring in the body and keep Milo inside until test results were in. Since Ben had done the dirty work, I was elected to hearse duty, but I demanded that the remains first be placed in a stapled brown grocery bag. That morning, I dutifully dropped off the package. When he came home later that day, Ben asked, “So where’s the skewer?” That’s when I realized that, unbeknownst to me, he had put the bat into the paper bag with the skewer still, er, attached. And he had apparently expected that I would get to the town health office, the bag would immediately be opened and someone would calmly extract the skewer, then wipe it off and hand it back to me. In my mind’s eye I could see the health officials opening the bag later in the lab and heard the conversation. “Um, who brought in this specimen -- Sir Lancelot? Vlad the Impaler?” “Jeez. Why didn’t they just use antifreeze?”