Monday, August 30, 2010
I am not amused
Sam walks into the room with a clunky fluidity. Air trips loudly in and out of her nose as though she is breathing around a head cold. The black fur that covers her back like a hooded cape is still deep with colour, the white underneath still bright, but both in a dishevelled kind of way. She has shrunk in the last couple of years, become bonier in her hips, thinner all over. Her brow seems to have pushed down into a permanent scowl over eyes of tarnished bronze, but she still moves with purpose, carrying the air of entitlement expected of her species.
Sam and I have never been great friends, not for a lack of trying on my part, but any chance I had of developing any sort of bond with our family cat was thrown out the window after the Christmas Bow Incident of 1991. Sam is 19 now and despite her determination to hate anyone who is not my dad I still attempt to mend our very broken relationship every time I see her.
When she stops her purposeful stroll into the room, I kneel in front of her and run my finger gently along the top of her head between her ears. She seems so fragile, like she’s made of spun glass and anything more than a whispering touch will make her shatter into a thousand pieces.
She sits slightly forward on her haunches as though too stiff to settle into a more relaxed position. Her eyes seem to focus on a spot on the floor in front of her as I carefully scratch behind her ear. I am about to ask my mom if Sammy hisses anymore when her front paw flies out from her body and swats my hand with a force that betrays her feeble appearance. Her mouth is open so wide it swallows her face and she lets out the loudest, longest hiss I have ever heard. “Okay, fine,” I say as I get to my feet. I walk around her and as I pass by she swats at my leg and hisses again. I can feel waves of anger, indignation and frustration rolling off of her. Ah, there’s the Sam I know.
We have always had a love-hate relationship. The love came from me while Sam nailed down the hate all by herself. It wasn’t long after the cute, tumbling fun of kittenhood was passed that the chip on her shoulder began to grow. For as long as I can remember she has been the grumpiest cat in the world, but I have to take at least some of the blame for that.
I know I contributed greatly to her dislike of people in general. I can pinpoint the very day when our relationship began its nosedive into the side of a mountain. It was completely my fault.
It was her first Christmas, Sam was barely a year old. I sat on the floor of our living room surrounded by a colourful sea of torn wrapping paper and freshly opened gifts when Sam wandered past. I don’t know why I did it, but I thought it would be cute, maybe funny, I didn’t expect the cat to have a near meltdown and mark me for life as enemy number one. I held a large shimmering golden gift bow in my hand that I had just removed from a present and as she walked by I reached out and stuck it to her back.
She began to throw a nonchalant glance behind her when, catching just a glimpse of this foreign object on her back, sheer panic took over. It was as though a spring had released beneath her, shooting her three feet straight up into the air. By the time she’d touched down, she was already running in a blind panic. I have never seen anything like it. Sam shed every ounce of dignity she had and if she could have yelled out, “What the hell is that?! Get if off, get it off!”, her shrill shrieks would have filled the room.
She tore around the house as though her tail was on fire – under the table, over the couch, into the bedrooms, over the beds. My family stared on in stunned disbelief as I ran behind the cat trying to grab the bow from her back, hoping it would fall off on its own. Every time I lunged for it, she was too fast, already out of my reach. I eventually caught up with her hiding in a dark corner in the basement under the stairs where we stored the suitcases. I turned on the light and saw her eyes flash out from where she crouched, they were wide and tinted with paranoia.
I reached in carefully over her stunned figure and pulled off the bow, apologizing profusely the whole time. She did not accept my apology. I suppose I can’t blame her, I still laugh about that incident till this day.
The Christmas bow was strike one. I don’t know how many strikes I accumulated over the years, but the day I showed up with Bear in tow, I’m sure my name was moved to the top of her hit list.