The next morning, a little after dawn, I woke up under the combined and forceful gaze of four cats who were used to being fed at 5 a.m.
“Come on,” I groused. “We talked about this. I don’t wait tables anymore. There is no breakfast shift. The store opens at 9. Y’all can just hang on.”
The cats exchanged a communal look of resignation. Clearly, they didn’t want to have to do this the hard way, but I was leaving them no choice. A silent vote was taken, and Winston apparently drew the short straw. He shook his head as if to say, “It didn’t have to come to this,” right before he jumped off the bed. In seconds he reappeared on the dresser and lifted his paw in the direction of a porcelain figurine.
“You wouldn’t!” I said, outraged.
Winston nudged the knickknack toward the edge and looked at me. In the crowd at the foot of the bed, three heads swiveled toward me. My turn in this contest of wills.
“Winston,” I said sternly, “you get down from there right now.”
That was not only a useless statement; it was a serious breach of etiquette. Cats don’t like to be ordered around.
Winston fixed me with a sorrowful expression and that line from The Godfather shot across my mind. It’s just business. As I watched, he scooted the delicate figurine to the very lip of the dresser and looked at me without blinking. A long moment passed. I refused to be the one to break. Not again. Not this time. No sir . . .
Fur met porcelain.
Throwing back the covers in a panic, I exclaimed, “Okay, fine,” but it was too late.
The figurine teetered and fell. My hand shot out even though I was too far away to catch the fragile object. As I watched, the figurine slowed and hung suspended in mid-air. Without really knowing why, I brought my hand up, lifting the delicate object with it. When the endangered breakable was once again level with the top of the dresser, I pushed forward very gently and watched as it settled safely back in place.
Winston observed the whole process with studied feline impassiveness. Once the figurine was settled, he sniffed it and gave me an imperceptible nod. Well played, human. Then he jumped down, and the entire pack went into the kitchen. All they’d wanted was for me to get up and feed them; they really didn’t care how that was accomplished.
As for me, I stood rooted in place, my mouth hanging wide open just waiting for a fly to go buzzing right on in. I don’t know how long I would have stayed frozen there if the boys hadn’t started raising the roof with their yowling.
I shuffled into the kitchen, flipped the light on, and doled out the morning rations. With a line of dining cats at my feet, I shook my head. “Get a grip, Jinx,” I said aloud to myself. “That was nothing but a half-awake dream. Serves you right for eating Doritos at bedtime.”
Xavier looked up at me telegraphing his agreement. He’s a Cheetos man.
Talking to yourself qualifies as a major perk of living with cats. If anyone comes in the room, you blame it all on the fur balls. “It must have been a dream,” I continued, stubbornly reasoning with myself. “That’s what happens when you spoiled brats wake me up out of a sound sleep. Everyone knows you can’t just put out your hand like that and . . . ”
All the cats looked up when my self-justifying monologue morphed into a kind of choking gurgle that sounded very much like a hairball on its way north.
You see, I’m one of those people who can’t talk if her hands are tied behind her back. When I said the words “put out your hand,” I did just that, accidentally raising a loaf of Wonder Bread clean off the counter where it now hung peacefully suspended in air right beside the spice rack.
Cautiously I drew my outstretched hand toward my body and the bread followed. As it crossed the room, Zeke jumped straight up, making a grab for the plastic wrapper. On instinct, I jerked like I was pulling on a rope and the Wonder Bread shot at me like a guided missile, thwacking me in the face before landing at my feet, scattering cats right and left.
Curious to see if it would work, I crooked my index finger toward the loaf, using the classic “come here” motion, and darn if that bread didn’t obey me like a well-trained coonhound.
Standing there with the Wonder Bread in my hand, I asked the cats, “You all saw that, right?”
A voice behind me answered. “They saw it, and so did I, honey.”
It was my turn to jump like I’d been shot. When I whirled around, ready to beat off some attacker armed with nothing but a loaf of white bread, I found Aunt Fiona standing in the doorway leading out to the living room.
“Hi, Jinx,” she said pleasantly, before adding with just a hint of concern. “I think maybe you better sit down before you fall down, sugar.”
“No,” I said, starting to back up. “Not only no, but hell no. I am not going to be seeing dead people.”