Measured Extravagance

14 February 2002 - 7:30 a.m.

AlcheraWeekly Challenge No. 03


In the spirit of Valentine's Day...

"Valentine's Day! Write a heartfelt love letter to your significant other--without using the word 'love.' If you are currently single, use your imagination."

This project is taken from The Writer's Digest No. 12 December 2001 issue--all copyrights are theirs.

Dear Bat,

It's been over ten years since my classmate Rebecca drove us home in her little red car from the Humane Society to my summer sublet, you yowling pathetically in the back seat all the way from Washtenaw Avenue to South Main Street. Some things haven't changed: you're not much of a meower at home, but plunk you into a moving vehicle and within minutes you've launched into heartrending arias worthy of Callas and Sutherland. When I packed you into my Colt Vista for the drive from Detroit to Nashville, I tried to make it easier for you by doping your water with valerian. I'd tried it on you a few days earlier and it'd seemed to do the trick (you'd curled up into a deep, contented sleep), but apparently herbal tinctures are no match for kitty nerves: I could tell that it slowed down your reflexes, since it was less of a struggle stuffing you into the carrier, but you still yowled all the way down I-75, even when I let you perch on top of the books and boxes and laundry.

When the BYM gets uppity, I like to remind him that you came into my life before he did. At the Humane Society, I was really attracted to an athletic Russian blue feline, but she was almost too pushy, and I ultimately concluded that she wouldn't be happy in my little efficiency. You were in a cage with the namecard "Lisbeth." You came to the door and nuzzled my hand whenever I returned to you. Friendly and gentle. When we got home, you hid yourself so efficiently it took me several panic-stricken hours to find you (under a lamp in the closet, behind many boxes of books). For a while, you kept hiding under the sofa and the bed, but by mid-summer you'd realized that if you walked up to people you got more petting that way: when I hosted a card party, you walked right up to a quartet of euchre-players and plopped yourself down right where they were supposed to be throwing down their jacks and power nines.

Your nose kept running - it turned out you had a respiratory infection. On the other hand, the Humane Society was wrong: you were already spayed. The fur the vet razored off of your belly to prove it grew back in completely white, and when they removed a lump next to your ear the hair returned as a bright orange streak (prompting the BYM to suggest shaving you in stripes to see what happened). You throw up a lot - we had to put you through surgery when it got so bad you weren't keeping anything down, and every now and then I grind up prednisolone and sprinkle it over your food (I kept finding spit-covered pills hours after I thought I'd succeeded in making you swallow them. Yeech). "In sickness and in health" - yup. And it works both ways - you like to snuggle up to me whether I'm feeling glam or utterly gross. (It means I have cat hair on everything from peignoirs to paint-smeared schmattes...)

It is said that people and their pets eventually resemble each other, and the BYM has been known to claim that it's already happened: "You're both cute, affectionate, and a bit dim." Your sang-froid is much admired by my friends - several of them have told me that you are the "chillest" feline they've ever met. You didn't bolt when I tried to show my four-year-old niece the difference between patting and petting (you weren't purring, but you stayed on the chair and suffered her enthusiasm with dignity). When we toss pillows and blankets on top of you, you often keep on purring, not bothering to budge. When the BYM hauls you up and dangles you in mid-air and calls you "filthy vermin," you purr even louder. Last night, when we curled up on the sofa to watch the video, you hopped up into my lap and rumbled so loudly the BYM told you to cut it out; at the end of the movie, you were snuggled on the other side of his lap, wriggling happily against our hands as we tickled your ears and nose and rubbed your neck.

After my friend Wendy cat-sat for me during a conference, she described to me how you would trot up to her - but then look past her as if you were expecting me to follow through the door. When I turn in for the night, you vault onto the bed if you're not already waiting there, and then climb onto my chest and knead away until I settle you into a more comfortable position against my thigh as I read. Sometimes you choose to follow my hand and nudge it until I scritch your face and dry your nose and stroke your tummy. Sometimes you try to walk on our heads or sleep on our pillows, at which point we groan and heave you to the foot of the bed or to the floor. Sometimes you hiss at the dog and sometimes you just look worried. Sometimes you fall asleep with your paws over your eyes. A co-worker's wife once crocheted a catnip toy for you, and I've seen you hug it to yourself like a little fat grey conical teddy-mouse.

I seldom talk baby-talk to children, but I constantly coo ridiculous endearments to you. You're what I would grab in a fire (if only because I can trust the BYM and the Abbygator to charge outside on their own). You warm my winters and help provide solace through the other seasons. You are one of the reasons this world feels like a good world even when it is not my home.

Your often delinquent but always devoted human,


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