Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rope Racer and the Kittens

Rope Racer and the Kittens
Copyright: Ken Harris, 2008

Auburn, California, mid-1960s: When our daughter, Patricia, was still in grade school, she fell in the playground and sustained a greenstick fractures of the left leg. In a cast, immobile and hurting a little bit, she was unhappy. To make her feel better Joanne brought home a kitten.

The kitten was a congenital hysteric. The least untoward noise sent her nervous system into spontaneous disassembly. She tried to run through a glass door once because somebody sneezed.

She was hyperactive, like most kittens. Our son, Eric, christened her Rope Racer after they had played “Let’s-Maul-the-Dangling-Jump Rope” for half an hour.

Rope Racer grew to a fearful, fugitive feline, afraid of anything that moved, or might have moved in the past or might move in the future. If you tried to put her on your lap, she took immediate evasive action. I didn’t have to be clawed too many times in delicate places to recognize a bad idea.

If she found my company distasteful, she didn’t have any trouble with tomcats because she turned up pregnant one day. Oddly enough, impending parenthood seemed to settle her nerves a little. She no longer caromed off the walls simply because I set a coffee cup down too hard. She no longer hid under the refrigerator like a furry chuckawalla simply because the kids ran into the house announcing to the entire county that they were home from school.

We held a family conference to determine where Rope Racer would best have her kittens. I built her a nest out of a cardboard box stuffed with freshly laundered rags and put it behind the hot water heater in the garage. It was the darkest, warmest place around, much better than outdoors because it was still winter. I thought it was the ideal place for a cat to have her kittens.

Rope Racer did not agree.

I arose early on weekday mornings so I could change the sprinklers in the pasture and do other little chores before putting on a suit and driving 50 miles to my job as an insurance company junior executive.

Once ready for work I cranked up the Datsun, backed out of the garage, and began to carefully negotiate the steep gravel driveway leading away from our house. On the way down I heard a “me-EW, me-EW” coming from a distressed kitten. Several other voices soon joined in a chorus of complaint. At the foot of the hill I stopped to investigate. Suspicion confirmed. Rope Racer had chosen to set up her nursery under the front passenger seat of the car.

She had conferred upon a waiting world seven fat little kittens with distended bellies and eyes squeezed shut. Rope Racer oozed pride and didn’t even have a screaming fit at the idea of being so close to a human being.

And here’s where I demonstrated my mettle and displayed my true colors. I drove back to the garage, opened the door to the house and called out to Joanne, who was putting on her hose and heels getting ready for a day of teaching high school biology, “Honey, I’m taking your truck today. You take my car.”

I started to get into the truck, but I just couldn’t be that rotten. I opened the door to the house again and called out, “You’d better check under the front seat before you leave.” Then I got out of there in a hurry.

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