(Carmen's Big Adventure)
May, 2008

Readers who have delved at random into other stories on this site will already know that I... uh... am possessed of cats. One doesn't "own" a cat, but rather shares space with it, largely at the cat's convenience and discretion. Make no mistake; I actually love and enjoy my cats-- most of the time-- but now and again they will do something so ridiculously stupid and chaotic I'm forced to wonder how the species has endured this long.

Cats are clever enough to use their inherent, feline charms to get from us most of what they require for their daily sustenance and comfort. Witness how many people share quarters with them... Yet they're fundamentally stupid enough to be absolutely blind to things that are real hazards to them. "They're just innocent, guileless little creatures" you might say. I would counter that with the proposition that they might just be the Living Spawn Of Satan, put on earth to test our patience and tempt us into bloody mayhem. A prime example of this would be "Carmen's Big Adventure", today...

Often, as I sit here at my L-shaped desk typing, surfing the 'net, fiddling with one of my web sites or reading my email, she will jump up to my left and parade around, waving her tail in my face, stomping across the keyboard and obscuring the monitor, head-butting my elbow, pawing my shoulder, or just generally trying to attract my attention with her raspy little "I'm Terribly Needy, Today" voice. A few pats on the head or a good chin-scratching generally placates her, and she'll settle down and snooze for a while.

Today was like any other day, in that she made her appearance, tap-danced around amidst the clutter for a few minutes and then sat down. I wasn't paying her much attention; I was focused on a letter I was writing, when she suddenly made a gagging noise, yipped, jumped down in a rather jerky fashion, and scooted away a few paces, I looked at her and said "What the hell is wrong with you?"

She turned to look at me and I saw... a sewing needle dangling from a piece of thread in her mouth! She'd been nibbling a length of thread, apparently, from where Marsha had been sewing up the seam of a purse that had torn. It looked like she'd managed to gobble it down to where the needle was hanging just a couple of inches just below her jaw.

Author's Photoshopped conception. (No; I didn't snap her in the act of stupidity...)

Of course, when I tried to get near her and take the thread out of her mouth, she freaked out and ran away. It's one of her hobbies, not being touched when she's not in the mood-- which is most of the time.
I crept after her and she managed to keep eluding me, going downstairs into the kitchen, thru the dining room and under the table, doubling back and hiding behind the recliner-- and then scooting madly upstairs and off to... God knows where. I finally found her in the back of the bedroom closet, with no needle or thread visible at all. I carefully tried to retrace her route, even crawling under the table and behind the recliner, but found no sign of the needle or thread anywhere in the house. Options that then presented themselves to my imagination included a minesweeping-like exercise with a large magnet attached to a broom handle, or simply wrapping myself in double-sided tape and rolling around the floors...

Forced to assume the worst-- that she'd done the stupidest possible thing and somehow managed to swallow the damned needle-- I realized I had to rush her to the vet. This involved catching her, first. I tiptoed about, closing all the doors upstairs, surreptitiously getting the Hated Cat Carrier of of the closet, and then chasing her upstairs and ingloriously failing to nab her on the landing. She shrieked and spat at me, and darted between my ankles. This should have been much easier, given that her indignation caused her to puff up to approximately double her normal size...

She ran back downstairs and all around the house while she yelled and squawked and snarled and bellowed as though I was poking her with a flaming stick. I finally cornered her on the stairway, throwing a towel over her and wrestling her furiously wriggling nine pounds of absolute, concentrated fury into the damned cat carrier. I was drenched in sweat, shaking and gasping for breath. This past 20 minutes of scrambling around like an idiot after this furry little demon was what I imagine running the Boston Marathon must feel like-- minus anyone cheering me on or offering me refreshing water, and completely absent any sense of pride and accomplishment...

Off to the vet's office we went. I phoned ahead to alert them that I had an emergency and needed an immediate exam and probably an X-ray. I called Marsha, who left work early to join me there. A couple hours after the adventure began, we'd managed to secure a partial X-ray. A PARTIAL X-RAY! The trembling vet announced: "We could only get a partial view, from about the shoulders down, because she just went ballistic! That cat does NOT want anyone touching her...! She's quite ferocious! Do you want to see if you can calm her down a little bit? I have to warn you, she might turn on you... "   We were ushered into the back portion of the clinic, where they'd placed her in a stainless steel cage. I had to pry her loose by wrapping another towel around her as she attempted to climb straight up the smooth walls of the cage, and she growled as I carried her back into the exam room. I felt horrible. She seemed completely panic-stricken, and probably felt completely betrayed and violated. Or maybe she was simply channelling Beelzebub.

The vet donned a pair of huge, long, thick, leather gloves; they looked like the sort of thing one might wear in a steel foundry, or possibly while out falconing or something. "Maybe a sedative, first, would be a good idea...?" she said.

"Fabulous! I'd love one!" I replied. "Got any Klonopin? Maybe just a couple of Dilaudid, to take the edge off. Oh; you meant...uh... never mind." The vet did not find me amusing.

While two of us held her allegedly sedated little body down, the vet conducted an oral exam -- slowly prying her jaws apart with a tongue depressor as Carmen did a very credible impression of Linda Blair as Regan, in "THE EXORCIST". She shined a light in her mouth and managed to get a good look under her tongue and down her throat.

A few hundred dollars (they refused to entertain my suggestion that they only charge us a partial X-ray fee...) and a lot of sweat and panic and fear and palpitations from all concerned, all signs of her having actually ingested anything at all are negative. Whee! What a workout! What a tremendous amount of spooky, heart-stopping fun for everyone involved!

When we brought her home and opened the cat carrier, she hopped out, twitched her tail a bit, and lay down on the floor, staring at us with a pissy, little expression as though we were late in bringing her room service, or something. God knows where the needle is. I'm sure to step on it, barefoot, some time soon-- and probably get tetanus or blood poisoning as a result. If we had a teenage daughter as willful, stubborn, contrary and headstrong as this cat is, we'd probably be bailing her out of jail, so I guess-- all things considered--  we're actually slightly ahead of the game.

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