The Cat, My Nemesis

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Misty

We are rivals for the affection and attention of the same woman. That is where our commonality ends.  I am not a “cat person.”  My feline aversion has everything to do with allergy and very little with to do with animosity.  I think Misty, the cat, somehow knows this and is using it to her own advantage.

It all started a few years ago when I visited Jeanne on Dutch Island for the first time.  I knew I had an allergy to cats and I knew she had a cat in her house. It is her daughter’s pet. I figured that I would just avoid contact with the cat and all would be fine.  Besides, Jeanne is a doctor and would be able to head off any ill effects if they popped up.  What could possibly go wrong?

During the second day of the trip, I started sneezing and feeling a little itchy. But I was cool about it.  The crush I had on this woman all those years ago was manifesting itself into something more significant, and I was trying to avoid complaints or whines about the cat. That evening we were in her kitchen preparing dinner.  I was sitting at the counter while she was prepping something on the granite surface near the sink with her back to me.  The cat was surreptitiously perched on the stool next to me, presenting herself to be petted and looking annoyed that I had not already commenced that activity.  As the conversation progressed, Jeanne turned around. The look on her face changed immediately when she glanced at me. “OH, DEAR GOD!”  The shocked look and sudden exclamation were not exactly what I was going for in the “wooing my dear friend” plan.  In the few moments that it took for Jeanne to finish the task in front of her and then turn back to me, my face had swollen to the point where my left eye was almost completely shut.

What followed was a bit of a blur.  A search for Benadryl, checking drawers for allergy remedies, mutterings of “I am a doctor, and I have nothing to help you in the house.”  I was getting a little loopy.   We hopped in a car and went to the store for allergy meds. It was about 10 p.m. on a Saturday evening as we pulled into the Walmart parking lot. The sideshow that can happen at a Walmart anywhere in the U.S. was in full swing in Savannah.  I realized that my swollen face was a part of the act.

Now, when I prep for a visit to Savannah, I start popping Claritin D like M&Ms for a week before I go.  An uneasy truce between Misty and I exists, but not without the occasional reminder that while I am on Dutch Island visiting with Jeanne, I am in Misty’s world.  I avoid contact with her because not doing so will lead to hives on my forearms, watery eyes and an increase in the frequency of sneezing fits.

DSCN2264When I arrive, you can almost sense that the cat is looking at me and thinking “Back for more, little man?”.  She still presents herself to be petted.  I always ignore her.  She sometimes pays me back for the slight by nipping at me.  While I am there, Jeanne will close the cat out of the bedrooms. Those rooms are Misty’s favorite place to sleep at night after napping all day.  My nemesis does not appreciate the appropriation of sleeping spots by the interloper from Virginia.

If I am up early in the morning to walk Bella, Jeanne’s Vizsla, Misty will be waiting for me when I am done with the dog.  Mewing like she has not been fed in days she will follow me around, rubbing against my legs until I make my way to the kitchen to feed her.  If I am wearing shorts in warm weather, I am dancing to get out of the way of the feline contact.  Once her dish is full, she will harass me for treats.

Book

I laugh at your literature!

She has stepped up her campaign to get me out of the house and ensure she has access to her favorite sleeping haunts.  She will walk across the keyboard on my laptop or just lay upon it staring at me as random letters rush across the screen.  She seems to be almost taunting me to pick her up and move her off.  She will rub all over my computer bag, lay on my coat.  At Christmas, she seemed to be ridiculing me by using a book on cat training as a pillow. It was a gift for Jeanne.

While sitting with Jeanne watching TV, Misty has been known to walk across the back of the sofa and start forcefully rubbing her head on the back and top of my head.  I do so love hives on my scalp!

I have been told that the allergy may resolve itself over time with more exposure to the cat.  I think, if Misty had a vote, I would have been dispatched from my intrusions into her world long before any allergy was overcome.

IMG_4637On the last two trips, she has violated our truce by urinating first near and then on my shoes after I came back from walking the dog. A small rivulet creeping away from the stain on top of the slip-on and running along the grout in the front hall tile. Nearby, she sat on the stairs, cleaning her fur and occasionally glancing in my direction.  I think she is throwing down the gauntlet.  I have challenged Misty to a final battle in the marsh along the Herb River behind Jeanne’s house.  It is still in doubt which one of us would emerge victorious after such a clash.

For now, I will start the Claritin D a week before heading to Savannah.  I will continue to avoid direct contact with Misty, as far as I am able.  Shoes or anything else I bring along with me will not be left out to be insulted by my catty antagonist.  I can only wonder what Misty has in store for me on my next trip south.  I know she is waiting for me.

cropped demon cat

Rivulet

A man with an umbrella is king in a downpour

May in the low country of South Carolina is subject to rapid changes in weather.  On this particular Saturday, I was attending the morning Commencement Ceremonies at the College of Charleston.  With scattered heavy showers in the morning, the event was moved inside to protect student, faculty, family, and friends from the potential of severe weather.  After the event, we were off to the condo on Kiawah Island for lunch and gifts for the graduate, the daughter of my dear friend.

After lunch, I was heading to the elevator with a full trash bag and my umbrella.  As the door opened to the elevator, a gentleman and two women were already aboard heading down.  They were impeccably dressed.  The gentleman was admiring my big, ratty umbrella. He jokingly offered to buy it from me.   I let him know the trash bag was negotiable, but the umbrella was going to stay with me.  I would, however, be happy to walk everyone in his party to their vehicle under cover of my ancient canopy.  He smiled and thanked me and said they were going to wait for a shuttle to take them to the location of a late afternoon wedding nearby.  I hopped off the elevator to head to the dumpster to relieve myself of the trash bag.  When I came back to the front of the building, there were about a dozen people standing under cover in semi-formal attire.

Their shuttle arrived in front of the building.  I started ferrying people down the steps and around the ponding water on the sidewalk that led to the shuttle.  I started with an elderly woman with a great sense of humor and her daughter. She asked me for my name and thanked me for assisting her.  I then followed with some of the other women in the party and a final walk through the downpour with two younger men.

I was soaked by the time I was done, and the shuttle pulled away to the wedding.   I thought it was pretty funny that these folks, none of whom I had met before, were so appreciative of the simple kind gesture of providing cover to keep them dry so they would be comfortable at the ceremony about to take place.  It cost me nothing but damp clothes to keep them mostly dry.

A casualty of all the divisiveness and tension in the country over the past year is civility.  My parents and my grandmother taught me manners as a child in the 1960’s. In today’s world, I think we would all be better off if we offered a kindness to someone who could really use it.  I know that ferrying people under my bumpershoot will not end the unpleasantness that is running rampant.  It is not going to solve climate change or bring world peace.  But maybe it will improve someone’s day or experience, and perhaps that spirit of kindness will manifest itself in a kind act paid forward by one of the passengers under my umbrella.

It can’t hurt.

Final

Fearless

She is fearless.

For Christmas this past year She arranged for us to get a glass working lesson for two at the Drayton Glassworks in Savannah.  We synched up our schedules and made arrangements for a Saturday afternoon in March to spend a couple of hours learning about the art/trade of glass.

Ronald was our instructor.  He was wrapping up a lesson with a couple when we arrived.  After introductions, some basic shop safety rules and an explanation of the equipment in the glass works we got right to it.  Ronald’s ease with a combination of molten glass and new students was both impressive and unnerving.  He took us through the basics of handling glass on pipes and how to start shaping and adding layers and colors.  The goal for today was a paperweight for each of us.  I went first, and I can tell you that I was playing defense all the way from the glass coming out of the crucible until my finished product went into the kiln.  Then it was her turn.

She jumped right in.  This should not have surprised me.  When it comes to a new challenge, a new way to express herself artistically, She is all in.  The way She takes to new things is nothing short of amazing.  While I was over thinking everything and acutely aware of the heat of the glass we were winging around the studio, my partner in crime was examining colors, exploring shapes and working on putting the vision in her head into the molten glass. Her hands were gracefully twirling and manipulating the glowing glass on the end of the pipe with an ease and cadence that defied any notion that She had never done this before.

Ronald guided her through the steps and offered assistance when She needed it.  I watched her face as She concentrated on her work.  It was the same determined look I remember from high school.  Head slightly tilted, her lower lip gently held between her teeth.   When Ronald would take the pipe from her to heat the glass or add another layer over her work, She would look at me and just beam this incredible smile.   This was not a competition between us.  Which is a good thing, because She owned everything about this experience.  When her smile starts in her eyes and washes over her face, I know that She loves not only what She is doing, but that we were doing it together.  I am utterly bewitched by the sparkle in her eyes when I see her so happy and determined.

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As She was wrapping up the paperweight and preparing it for the kiln, I could see She was hooked and would want to come back and do another lesson.  As the project twirled and rolled in front of her I could tell She was wishing that our two-hour lesson was not ending.  Her project was ready to be separated from the pipe and placed in the kiln.  A few more rotations and some gentle scoring would enable a few taps to free the hot globe for a 24-hour rest in the kiln.

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On the Monday after our lesson, She went to the studio to pick up the paperweights.  Ronald left three for us.  In addition to our projects, he left the one he made as a demonstration during our lesson.

paperwights

I had already returned to Virginia, so She sent a photo.  She also posted it on Facebook,  with a little tease:

The results of Saturday’s glass working adventure at Drayton Glassworks–one by Michael, one by me and one by the instructor! I will let you all figure out who did which!!

To be honest, I could not tell which was which.  In fact, I had to confess that I was not even sure we had done these.  Ronald had a few classes that day, and I am not sure that he noted who did which project when he placed them in the kiln. She is not sure, herself.  Does it matter?  Not really.  The glass paperweights are a prompt to a great memory of a day spent together opening the aperture of our shared experiences.  They remind me of her determination and her grace in realizing her artistic vision and learning something outside of her comfort zone. The memory of that smile reminds me that, in those stolen moments when I am the only one who sees that big grin and slight shoulder shrug, I fall a little more into her gravity.