Friday, September 12 2003
This morning I was in my laboratory working on something when Gretchen appeared in the doorway, still stark naked, and asked when I'd last seen Mavis. It had suddenly occurred to Gretchen that she hadn't seen our elderly cat since sometime yesterday. This was most unusual behavior. Normally Mavis keeps to a strict schedule. She lounges in the first floor office by day, frequently harassing us for wet food. At night she pays us periodic visits in bed, purring loudly and rubbing her gums against our elbows and noses.
Mavis hadn't been ill, but she's an old cat and could well have been suffering from a terminal illness, the rare kind that allows for a massive appetite and plenty of purring. The fact that her normal behavior had suddenly ceased suggested that she'd either dropped dead or been dragged off by a predator, one further up the food chain than her and whatever beasts are ground up to make her Iams wet food.
We launched a massive search of the house and immediate grounds looking for what we expected would be Mavis's corpse. I even got out a flashlight to shine around in a low earthen crawlspace beneath the front door's entryway. It looks like just the sort of place a cat would crawl into to die. (I'm sure that animals don't "go somewhere to die" - the phenomenon we describe this way is actually an animal desperately seeking comfort when overcome by severe illness.) The only thing we found in our search was one of the bell collars we'd bought for Edna to minimize her impact on local wildlife (something which she'd easily removed).
A few hours passed and then I took the dogs for a walk down the Stick Trail. Sometimes when I go off into the woods, I hear our cat Noah approaching in the distance, yelling for us us to wait up, insisting that he wants to come along too. In the past I used to get a kick out of the novelty of hiking with a cat, but these days I'm mostly just annoyed when he shows up. He walks too slowly and makes all sorts of unreasonable demands that aren't in keeping with hiking protocol. Also, since he has the weak stamina intrinsic to being a feline, I'm worried that I'll kill him if I go for a real hike. So I usually just cut things short when he shows up, doubling back the way I'd come.
As I was walking back from my aborted hike today, I crossed the Chamomile River and there, only a couple dozen feet beyond, was a grey cat standing in the middle of the trail, already being harassed by an enthusiastic Eleanor (who had been in the lead). Wait - I knew Noah was still back behind me on the trail. So who was this? Then I realized - Jesus Christ - it was Mavis, not cold and stiff but alive and well. It was like seeing a ghost. She looked like she'd lost a little weight, though she'd only missed one or two meals and a good night's sleep. I scooped her up and took her back to her feeding station atop the laundry dryer, and she devoured her stinky Iams wetfood as if it was freedom fries and she was a Republican coming off the Atkins Diet.
I'll never know the answer to the mystery of how Mavis ended up near the Chamomile River on the Stick Trail. She doesn't leave the house very often, and I've never seen her wander out of the mowed grass of our yard. But perhaps she'd decided to follow one of us on a hike or had, like an Alzheimer's patient, wandered off and become lost. In the past I've seen her attempt to stalk cowbirds in the yard - perhaps a similar predatorial instinct took her far into the woods.
Ray and Nancy and their dog Suzy came up from Brooklyn today so that Ray and Nancy could attend the wedding of their friend Hot Tom, who is getting married this weekend at Mohonk Mountain House (near New Paltz). Tonight they visited just long enough to go out with us for a dinner of pupusas at La Pupuseria on Broadway in Kingston. They also dropped off Suzy to spend the weekend with Sally and Eleanor, her upcountry colleagues.
Later Gretchen and I watched the first game of the WNBA finals series played between Los Angeles (hisssss) and Detroit. Lisa Leslie, the player we love to hate, was glistening tonight from unusually high sweat output. We realized something else we despise about that woman: the fussy way she holds her hands as she runs. Unfortunately, Detroit lost this particular game after demonstrating an unexpected inability to make baskets.
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