“You’ve ruined a perfectly good cat.” I say this, in all sincerity, to the mumbling form next to me.
“I have no idea what you’re saying,” he says. It is dark, but I know he is smiling.
“This,” I say, lifting a small, striped animal by the scruff. “You took a perfectly good cat and turned her into the pawing, insistent little creature she is today.”
And tonight, like every night, Willie shrugs genially, gets up and heads toward the kitchen.
The cat squirms from my grasp. Shaking herself, she gives me a stern look. “I heard that, you know,” she says.
And with that, she leaps from the bed. What follows is the sound of tiny paws galloping across the hardwood floor, through the sitting room and into the kitchen, where the fridge door opens, spilling a yellow glow into the hours between sleep and awakening.
I roll to one side, check the clock next to me. Twelve-thirty.
It wasn’t always like this. At one time, the cat – a smallish, dainty-pawed animal known to us as Liza Bean Bitey – was content to sleep in the crook of my knee. How simple life was then! Just a couple of humans, a cat on one end, another cat on the other. We slept, then; and outside of a playful bite at my earrings, as my grandmother would say, ever so often, we led a quiet night-time existence.
Then came the cream.
“Just a touch,” Willie’d say. “The kitties only live for such a short time. They deserve treats.”
And so began the nightly insistences, and in no time at all, Liza Bean had penned, usually somewhere between midnight and 1:00, the words “Demand cream” onto her calendar.
“Calming cream,” Willie’d say, grinning.
“She’s trained you to get up in the middle of the night,” I’d say. “And when you won’t wake up, she bites my ears until I have to threaten her with gas-station sushi.”
“But they’re only here for a bit,” he says. “You gotta love the kitties while they’re here.”
And so there he goes. 12:37 on a Monday night and, like every night, Willie gets up to pour a modicum of cream on to a thrift store china saucer.
Because you gotta love the kitties while they're here.