(A rhetorical essay, November, 2007)

We have two cats, Cleo and Carmen, seen below, at their least stupid. Don't get me wrong; they're sweet, loving little creatures and give us a lot of pleasure and enjoyment, but they're not the brightest things around...!

Carmen, on the right, is generally the bolder of the two, and less prone to fearful silliness. She's always the first one to come out of hiding when the vacuum cleaner is switched off, for instance... Now and again, however, she manages to do the most insane things.

I don't know what it's like where you live, but in Virginia, we're subject to a Personal Property Tax on our motor vehicles. You pay it, and they mail you a sticker for your windshield. Ours came in yesterday's mail. I detached the sticker from the receipt and put it on the kitchen counter along with the other papers needing attention. When Marsha came home-- she's usually the one to feed the cats-- they dashed out to greet her and do their "Feed Me, FEED ME!" dance.

Carmen leaped onto the counter and began shaking her butt and waving her tail around. She was doing her best to simulate the symptoms of feline starvation and malnutrition, the better to make the delicious cat food appear in her bowl faster. In doing so, she backed into the Personal Property Tax sticker, and it got stuck to her right hind leg and her ass.

Carmen in more tranquil times.

This instantly transformed her from Carmen the Cute, Hungry Housecat, to Carmen the Terrified Victim of the Sticky Decal Demon From Hell! She burst from the kitchen, shrieking like she'd been set on fire. She made a couple of circuits of the living room, threading her way between chair and sofa and coffee table, leaping to the back of the love seat and rebounding off the windowsill, with the sticker noisily flapping away, trying to outrun it. Leaping onto the dining table, scattering everything there in her wake didn't dislodge the Demon, either.

It was time to try her luck upstairs! Bounding up the staircase, three steps at a time, with ever-so-brief pauses to look back at her hindquarters to check whether this new strategy was working, she continued to yowl and screech at a pitch and volume as if she were being stapled to another cat.

She sought refuge in her Safe Spot-- the storage channel beneath the platform bed, where our house's largest dust bunnies reside. Some of them resemble her, in size and color... Marsha and I, meanwhile, have been trying to catch her, to calm her down, and take the damn thing off her ass. Carmen is having none of this, because deep in her reptilian brain lurk memories of two people --who look very much like us-- clipping her nails, removing stuck-on cat poop from her tail, or maybe administering that nasty ear mite medication-- and she's NOT going to be touched or held, thank you very much! As much as we want to help her, we're also paralyzed with laughter at the sight of her streaking hither and yon, screaming at her own ass...!

For the rest of the evening, plaintive howls emanated from beneath the bed. Repeated attempts to whisper, to cajole, to coo, to entice her from her Demon-proof bunker with a freshly opened can of cat food or a dish of her favorite treats were completely ineffective. She remained there for hours.

Some time this morning, I was awakened by her yelling in my ear. She'd gotten onto the bed and was standing on my pillow, and had apparently decided that since the Demon had actively stopped attacking her, maybe I could pull it off her now very dusty behind. I was able to remove it without too much fuss.

Whether or not we are ever going to be able to affix this to our windshield remains to be seen. I can only imagine what it'll be like to try and explain it to the cops, though, if we can't. Some variation on the old "The Dog Ate My Homework" excuse comes to mind...

Chief Investigative Editorial Inspector Carmen has come to fact-check this story. The previously terrifying sticker seems to hold no more strange power over her. Indeed, there's something oddly familiar-- and almost comforting-- about it. Maybe it's the 3 ounce wad of cat hair stuck to it..?

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