Ode to a Cat, a Dog, and a Mouse

Each morning I stumble to the bathroom followed by both dogs. They collapse on the bath mats and wait. Then they follow me to the bedroom. Then they follow me to the kitchen. I think there are two reasons for what my husband calls ‘the wagon train’.

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Arwen and Vala

One, they are bored out of their little brains and are waiting for something interesting to happen.

Or, two, they are terrified I’ll forget their breakfast and so they hover in order to remind me of their starving presence.

Either way, something interesting happened the other morning.

When the wagon train entered the bathroom, both dogs immediately woke up and zeroed in on the toilet plunger in the corner. There was a…stick poking out behind it.

We live in the woods. Finding sticks in the house isn’t uncommon. But this one moved.

Whether it was a young rat or a fat mouse, I don’t know. I didn’t look that close. I’m going to call the poor thing a mouse.

Some of you remember hearing about the tiny four-week-old kitten my husband rescued from the pouring rain. She’s grown up.

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Rocinante (Roci for short)

She brought in a toy.

I went to the living room where my husband was enjoying his coffee, minus the wagon train, and demanded that his cat come back and finish the job.

When I turned around, our old dog Arwen was coming down the hall, tail up and full of pride, with a…stick poking out of her mouth.

My husband yelled ‘drop it!’ before I could yell ‘take that outside!’.

That poor mouse. It ended up hucked over the neighbor’s fence.

A little later the cat sauntered back in and went straight to the toilet plunger, where she searched fruitlessly. I believe she stashed the mouse there.

But here’s the thing. The bathroom isn’t that far from the back door, which was open. Why didn’t the mouse run outside? It could have. It was in the bathroom by itself for a while.

What kind of threats does a cat tell a mouse to make it freeze where it’s been dropped and wait for death?

‘There are giants in this place. If they see or hear you, they’ll scream and STOMP you.’

‘If you think this is bad, wait until the DOGS see you. Better stay still and quiet.’

‘If you move I’m going to pounce. You may think I’m gone, but I’m not. Hold VERY still and you might live.’

Whatever the threat was, that poor mouse had a rough night. Caught by a cat. Found by humans. Caught by a dog. Sent flying by a human.

I like to think the mouse survived. After all, the neighbor’s yard is full of weeds. It could have had a soft landing. Maybe it just ended up soggy from being in the dog’s mouth. Maybe, right now, he’s telling his friends and family all about the crazy adventures that he survived purely because of his immense bravery and courage and ability to hold VERY still.

Of course they’ll think he’s bragging and not believe a word of it.

Unless they get close enough to an old dog to smell her breath.

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Mouse Breath

Shopping

An upcoming trip has forced me to buy new clothes. I headed ‘down below’ leaving narrow, twisty roads with no traffic and ending up on straight multi-lane freeways with bumper-to-bumper cars. I left trees for pavement, shade for hot direct sun, and little general stores for a mall. I left the few locals going about their day for crowds of people taking selfies.

For those who don’t know me, I hate shopping. It makes me grumpy. People overload, breathing in exhaust, too many things to choose between, too much stuff, too much money, all of it.

I especially detest clothes shopping.

So, there I was at the mercy of happy salesgirls. And as with all writers, the internal dialog was much more honest than the external.

‘Hi! How are you today!’

Leave me alone. ‘Fine, thanks.’

(I’m purposely using exclamation points instead of question marks because these girls are just so damn chipper.)

‘Can I help you find anything!’

If I want your help, I’ll ask. ‘No thanks.’

‘Great! Well, just so you know, we have these amazing ______ on sale today!’

Do I look like someone who would wear…I don’t even know what the heck that is. ‘Thanks.’

She used some phrase obviously meant to be a fashion statement that she assumed I’d know the meaning of. She was referring to these weird looking…pants I guess. Lacy, as wide as any bell-bottom pants I wore back in the 1970s. I thought at first it was a skirt. They were either a long skirt or too-short pants, coming a few inches above the ankle.

‘And we have a great sale on bras today that will make your girls happy!’

What girls? I’m alone. Then it dawns on me she means breasts. I have never referred to my breasts as girls. I just smile politely and continue pushing through hangers of weird pants.

Actually, a couple months ago I broke down and bought a new Viking breastplate at that store, after making my last one last several years. I think the bra will take my whole luggage weight limit of fifty pounds.

When I had a few things draped over my arm, she came back. ‘Shall I start a room for you, hon’!’

I’m not your ‘hon’. ‘I suppose.’

‘What’s your name, sweets! I’ll put it on a door for you!’

Well, it’s sure as hell not ‘sweets’.

And so it went. I restrained myself as much as possible, although a few remarks slid out anyway. Along the lines of, ‘no, I don’t want to apply for your store credit card, your company frankly sucks at customer service’.

But I survived, at the end sweaty, rumpled, cussing, and with a headache.

I hope those clothes last me until I take another big trip (which means years) because I refuse to do that torture again any time soon.

I headed home to sweet air and wind in the trees and happy dogs and a husband who’d made dinner.

And somehow, that weird pants/skirt thing made it into a bag and came home with me. I plan on taking it to work and showing them to the girls (actual girls, not breasts) so they can tell me what it is. I have a horrible feeling I bought something that’s supposed to be worn to bed rather than out in public.

Either way, the shopping is done for another decade.

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That’s her blurred guilty face as she just got caught with the cat’s food bowl.

A Crochet Basket

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Hmmm…the top one is lopsided, too.

That basket in the middle has had a long, busy life. It has sat with me in trucks and cars while waiting on many things. It has been my faithful companion during doctor appointments. It has sat at my feet during radiation treatments. It has visited family and friends. It has even been patiently forbearing while a kitten fished items out and sat in it.

It has carried thread and yarn and hooks. It has doubled as a purse and held keys and rocks and CPR supplies. This basket carried the thread for this tablecloth for the year it took me to make it. That’s still one of my favorite patterns.

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You might think that it’s starting to show its age. That it’s getting rather knocked around.

But here’s the thing. Other than the colors having slightly faded, it looks just like when I bought it.

There it sat on a shelf, in a fair trade store, lopsided and all alone. No one even bothered to give it a second glance.

Have you been to those fair trade craft stores? They have cards showing the women who make the crafts, full of smiles.

I felt sorry for that basket that no one wanted. I imagined the woman who made it, and the conversation whispered between her supervisors.

Inspector: ‘But it’s lopsided. No one will buy it.’

Supervisor: ‘Send it in any way. It will hurt her feelings if you don’t, and it’s her first basket.’

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Yes, I’m one of those who buys things because they feel sorry for them. Plants half-dead on back shelves. Baked goods with failed frosting designs. Lopsided baskets.

And I love my basket. It’s held up well with all the wear and tear.

I like to imagine the conversation now.

Inspector: ‘Can you believe someone bought that basket?’

Supervisor: ‘I know! What are we going to do now? She’s making them all that way!’

Every time I go back to that store I look for more. But they must now be quite popular because I’ve never been able to find another lopsided basket.

People must by buying them as soon as they show up.